It was the night after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Monsignor Thomas Harrington was a 25-year-old Deacon at the time. He remembers being awakened in the middle of the night, by the Rector. Without thinking, Monsignor Harrington grabbed his cassock and ran downstairs, having no idea he was about to experience a moment of a lifetime.
"November 22, 1963 we were all in disbelief, and despair, and disheartened sorrow," recalled Monsignor Thomas Harrington.
50 years ago Today, Harrington was studying to become a priest at the Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Harrington recalls how President Kennedy's assassination felt like a blanket of sorrow.
"That day passed tediously," he said.
He went to bed that night, only to be woken up by pounding on his door. It was the Rector.
"He said Tommy get your gear come down stairs. There was a taxi cab waiting downstairs and it brought us to the White House,"said Harrington.
The First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, had requested the university send clergy to the White House to pray over her husbands casket during his wake.
"Tom Schrader knelt down at one end, and I knelt down at the other, and they opened the doors and the wake began for the President," recalled Harrington.
It was 2 o'clock in the morning, says Harrington, the first people in to mourn the death of President Kennedy were White House staff.
"I can still almost have goosepimples when I think of the wail, the sobs, the wailing grief, that the first mourners had, they were all very close," he said.
For an hour and a half, Harrington kneeled in prayer at the Presidents casket, never lifting his head.
"Your mind is just running in awe of the sacredness," described Harrington.
Harrington was also there for the funeral.
"The thing that I can remember was the clop clop clop of the horses hooves, it was profound," he said.
Nut nothing compared to the moment he had at the President's wake.
"That intimacy of those early morning moments in the White House which I can't explain I can only tell you it was an extraordinary experience," he said.