ROANOKE, Va. -

A headline in the afternoon paper. Flags lowered to half staff. And a line of community leaders reacting to the news.

"Congressman Jennings, what was the first thing that came to your mind when you heard this news today," WDBJ reporter Vince Clephas asked 9th District Congressman Pat Jennings. "Well I first could hardly believe it, so the real thought that came to my mind was this just couldn't be true," Jennings said.

They expressed shock and disbelief, and sympathy for the Kennedy family.

Roanoke Mayor Murray Stoller.  "I'm sure I speak for all of the people of Roanoke as I express my profound grief over the passing of the murdered President," he said.

State Delegate Caldwell Butler. "Words necessarily fail us," Butler told the reporter, "but our deepest sympathy goes to Mrs. Kennedy and the President's family."

Republican Committee member Linwood Holton. "My complete sympathy also to his wife and to those little children," Holton said.

The hours and days after the assassination also brought prayers and reflection in local churches

Dr. R. R. Wilkinson, the pastor of Hill Street Baptist Church spoke of the determination to continue fighting for civil rights and other priorities that Kennedy had embraced.

"Much of the work that he started," Wilkinson said to his congregation, "is left to the citizens of the United States, lovers of peace, to carry on."

Murray Stoller served as Roanoke's mayor for two years, and another two on city council. Caldwell Butler later served in Congress. Linwood Holton would become Governor.  And R.R. Wilkinson would continue fighting for civil rights as pastor of Hill Street Baptist Church for more than 30 years.

But on November 22, 1963, their words captured the emotions from a tragic moment in American history.