Dark Day in Dallas

I was with several other members of the senior class at Volga High School who had just finished eating lunch in the school cafeteria and were slowly drifting back to the study hall for a few minutes before our next class. It was Friday and, as usual, hard to concentrate on school work with the weekend coming up.
Something was odd, though. The portable TV set in the corner had been turned on and a somber Walter Cronkite was on the air reporting that gunshots had been fired at the presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas.
We all gathered around the television..the volume was turned up and afternoon classes were called off.
Then Cronkite reported the president and Governor John Connally had both been hit.
A short while later, he announced the news that we all were dreading; President Kennedy was dead.
I can still hear the shrieks of disbelief from my classmates and teachers as we all pressed closer to the TV for more details. It was the same television set on which three years earlier, we were allowed to watch President Kennedy’s inauguration when he asked us to ask ourselves…not what our country can do for us but what we could do for our country.
After 8 years of Ike, it was so cool to have this vibrant, handsome young president with his beautiful intelligent wife at his side representing the United States of America.
Then in a few seconds, it was all over. Camelot was no more and a boisterous old Texan had assumed King Arthur’s throne. I was sad, miserable, angry and disappointed beyond description.
I don’t think I’m over it yet..which became crystal clear as Linda and I visited the Sixth Floor Museum in downtown Dallas. It’s in the old Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots. Oswald fired from the square window on the end..one floor down from the top.Longtime residents would just as soon outsiders would focus their attention on all the good things Dallas has to offer not the place were a terrible chapter in American history was written on November 22nd 1963. But as sure as Texas ranchers use a hot iron to brand their longhorns, Dallas..for many of us..will always be permanently branded with the assassination of JFK.
You enter and exit the museum through a gauntlet of souvenir shops which I found tacky. After paying five dollars to park and 27 dollars for admission we were handed a set of headphones for the self-guided tour. No photos allowed.
The elevator door on the sixth floor opens to a maze of photo and video exhibits tracing the history of the Kennedy’s..stuff I’d seen a thousand times before. But then, we approach the southeast corner and there it is; enclosed in glass..the sniper’s nest with boxes placed just as Oswald had stacked them. Suddenly, a rush of emotion came over me as I realized where I was and what had happened there to change the world. I gazed out the adjacent window at Elm street and Dealey Plaza below..an assassins eye view.
It is an incredible experience.Cameras aren’t allowed on the sixth floor. I have no idea why.
On the street below, X marks the spot where the fatal shots occurred. I realize that a majority of Americans are convinced that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy. I don’t happen to be one of them.
Whatever you believe, if you’re ever in Dallas, don’t miss the chance to see where the life of our charismatic  35th president came to a violent end…even if the locals would rather you just forgot about it.

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5 Comments

  1. I remember pulling into parking spot in front of S&L store on main in Brookings to buy a bonnet to go with my baptism dress for our daughter, Lisa, who was baptized that Sunday in Sinai. So sad and unreal. Mark and I got to see the “museum” and that view years later while visiting my sister.

  2. Thanks Doug. I too remember where I was that fateful day. I was in AG class. Principal Grebner walked in very subdued and told us the news. We filled out of class and went to the study hall with everyone else.
    I think a lot about that time, but especially in November and how our world, our Country, and ourselves were irrevocably changed.

  3. Our family was packing to leave Volga for a new mission call in Boulder, Colorado. We pastors quickly planned a joint memorial service held(If I remember) at First Lutheran. Sad time.

  4. Yes a gray day it was at my rural Brookings Co. (Sinai) country school #95 and more than just the weather.
    Noon recess, my brother & others were across the road playing in Freddie & Myranda’s trees.
    Myranda came out & told them. I can still see the boys running across the school yard to tell our teacher, Mrs. Bill Engel. We then tuned into an old radio in the school house.
    Watching the proceedings and funeral the next few days was burned into memories, My dad was shelling corn that day he always said. I was only 7. My Mom accidently stuck the diaper pin in her finger when the news came on the radio as she changed my baby brother she said.

  5. our world was forever changed that day I was only 10 but will never forget watching everything on our old black and white tv. I will always wonder what would have happened to our country if he would have been re-elected, would Vietnam have been as bad ?

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