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Forty-Seven Years

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Like so many others who were around 47 years ago, I am aware each November 22 that it is the anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination. I was in 7th grade, the first year of junior high school, of moving through multiple classrooms with multiple teachers each day. At the end of the school day, we would return to homeroom for 5 minutes to check in with our homeroom teachers for any final announcements before heading home. I was sitting at my desk when the teacher across the hall rushed in and whispered something to my teacher. He then followed her into the hall. I don’t have a clear memory of what happened after that. He returned. He must have told us the news. I got on my bus and went home. I remember my sister crying at home, but I don’t remember how she got there. Why wasn’t she on the bus with me? Or maybe she was.

Last January, Gail and I were in Dallas for the first time, visiting my old friend Won. I wrote then about our visit, with one post containing a description of our tour of the The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. In honor of today’s anniversary, here’s a paragraph from that post:

Before taking us to the museum, Won drove us around it to the front — Dealey Plaza — and westwards on Elm Street, under the three-part railway bridge. I didn’t understand at first the point of the detour, but once upstairs, on the sixth floor, as I read about and studied the map of the motorcade route, I appreciated how driving that stretch was an excellent prelude to the exhibit. The permanent exhibit is so well done. It is an intense, powerful, painful experience. First you read about the Kennedy’s early career, marriage to Jacqueline, run for the presidency in 1960, the early days of the administration, political troubles, the decision to travel to Texas to shore up support. And time begins to slow down as the Texas trip begins. San Antonio and Houston on the 21st, with the flight up to Fort Worth that night. Fort Worth on the morning of the 22nd, then the short (really short!) flight to Love Field in Dallas and the motorcade. Years, months, days, hours, minutes, and soon we are studying photos of the motorcade second by second as it heads west on Main, turns north on Houston at the eastern edge of Dealey Plaza, and then makes the left turn west on Elm, with the Texas School Book Depository building on the northwest corner of the intersection. As you work your way through the exhibit, you are also working your way to the southeast corner of the building. You can’t believe he’s going to be shot. But he is. You read. You tear up. And there you are, staring at a mock-up of the corner as it was when Oswald fired, with book boxes piled up to provide a blind from which he can shoot, and with the very window he fired through — the easternmost one on the south side — pushed up no more than a foot. The space is enclosed by glass, so you can’t actually walk into it, but you can view it from different angles, coming ultimately to the south side, at which point you look down on Elm yourself and see Oswald’s view. It’s shattering, 46 years later.

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