Mr. DePalma is a very strict teacher, so Elena is surprised that he should be crying.
Elena sees Mr. DePalma, the science and physical education teacher, as tough and firm. Students who appear to be troublemakers are assigned to his homeroom. Since she seems him in a role of strength, it is hard for her to picture him in a moment of weakness. When President John F. Kennedy is killed and DePalma cries, Elena realizes that it is very serious, and the event hit her teacher and her country hard.
The day Mr. DePalma came out into the cold and asked us to line up in front of him was the day that President Kennedy was shot.
His crying is unexpected, but he also spits on the sidewalk in front of the kids. When the kids do not seem to know what is going on, he yells at them.
“The president is dead, you idiots. I should have known that wouldn’t mean anything to a bunch of losers like you kids. Go home.” He was shrieking now.
DePalma’s strong emotions seem to result directly from intense grief. Many people felt the same way, and most Americans who were alive at that time could tell you where there were when they heard the news.