Dallas recalls day in 1963 that changed American life

John F Kennedy assassination happened 50 years ago today

President John F Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy  and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife  in the presidential motorcade moments before Kennedy was shot in Dallas,Texas, on November 22nd, 1963. Photograph: Reuters/Victor Hugo King/Library of Congress/

President John F Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife in the presidential motorcade moments before Kennedy was shot in Dallas,Texas, on November 22nd, 1963. Photograph: Reuters/Victor Hugo King/Library of Congress/

Fri, Nov 22, 2013, 06:51

There are no signs to commemorate the route John F Kennedy’s presidential motorcade took through Dallas to the scene of his assassination a half-century ago.

For the city, it is an ugly legacy that is difficult to shake. Those shots changed American life in a dislocating moment as a horrified world looked on.

On the way to Dealey Plaza, where America’s 35th president was slain, there is nothing to note the 50th anniversary of the city’s darkest moment. In contrast, the plaza – next to the Texas Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have shot Kennedy – is overrun with tourists and reporters collecting stories from eyewitnesses and others recalling where they were at that epochal moment.

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Media trucks and tents surround the plaza for today’s 50th anniversary as construction workers tear up Elm Street and the macabre white crosses that marked where Kennedy was hit by two bullets, the second the fatal head shot captured so brutally on the movie camera of Abraham Zapruder.

Conspiracy theorists occupy the famous grassy knoll at the fence where, they contend, a second gunman once stood. They peddle books and theories about how Oswald did not act alone.


‘A lot of shame’


Kennedy’s death has created an assassination industry. For many locals, it’s a business they wish Dallas didn’t have.

“There’s a lot of shame that it happened here,” said retired Dallas police sergeant Robert Rowe who was among the officers who arrested Oswald 50 years ago today. Mike Brownlow, who as a 13-year-old saw the car pass opposite the depository, said people in Dallas feel the same sadness they felt in 1963.

Others have found visits to this plaza cathartic. Racked by guilt, Clint Hill, the bodyguard who jumped on to Kennedy’s car when the first shot rang out, returned for the first time in 1990 to see if he could have stopped Oswald. “I checked all the angles . . . I finally came to the conclusion he had all the advantages that day; we didn’t have any,” he told an interviewer this week. “I did everything I could.”