Thousands mark anniversary of JFK’s death in Dallas

Moment of silence observed at time when shots rang out 50 years ago

 In a moving speech at Dealey Plaza, Dallas, yesterday, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings spoke of John F Kennedy’s legacy. Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA

In a moving speech at Dealey Plaza, Dallas, yesterday, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings spoke of John F Kennedy’s legacy. Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA

Sat, Nov 23, 2013, 06:56

Thousands of people braved a wet, bitterly cold day to remember US president John F Kennedy and mark the moment 50 years ago when he was assassinated at Dealey Plaza in the downtown area of Dallas.

In the city’s first official commemoration of Kennedy’s assassination, about 5,000 people observed a moment of silence as bells tolled across Dallas at 12.30pm, marking the time when shots rang out a half-century ago, killing the 35th US president.

The ceremony began in front of dignitaries and a large contingent of international media with an invocation by Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell, who is originally from Drimnagh in Dublin, recalling “the cruel suffering that was born on this hill” and “the shock and horror that gripped our nation”.

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Flags across the US flew at half-mast as the nation remembered Kennedy and the horrifying event that transformed American politics and culture a half-century ago.

Members of the Kennedy family laid a wreath at the president’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC, observing a moment of silence at 12.30pm.

A group of Irish army cadets who performed at Kennedy’s funeral in 1963 will visit his grave on Monday along with members of the current class of cadets to pay tribute to the slain president.

Former US secret service agent Clint Hill, who was in the presidential motorcade on the day of the assassination, placed a wreath at a statue of Kennedy in Fort Worth.

In a moving speech at Dealey Plaza, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings spoke of Kennedy’s legacy and how the city has progressed from dealing with the hatred directed towards it following the assassination. “We all grew up that day,” he said.

“A new era dawned and another waned half a century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas. We watched the nightmarish reality that in our front yard our president had been taken from us.”

The president’s killing gave Dallas “a gift that will not be squandered”, said the Democratic mayor.

‘Chance to learn’
“He and our city will forever be linked in tragedy, yes, but out of that tragedy an opportunity was granted to us: the chance to learn how to face the future when it’s darkest.”

The mayor unveiled a new memorial to Kennedy at the plaza inscribed with words from a speech he was due to give at the Dallas Trade Mart, where he was heading when he was killed.

Images from Kennedy’s trip to Ireland in June 1963 were played to the crowd ahead of the ceremony.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra had been due to play The Boys of Wexford, which Kennedy first heard on his Irish trip, but their performance was cancelled due to the bad weather.

During the ceremony, American radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones led an anti-government protest a block away from Dealey Plaza as about 50 demonstrators chanted: “No more lies.”

Dallas has struggled over the past half-century as blame for Kennedy’s assassination was pinned on its residents following his death.

“The city has not really known how to bear that responsibility,” said Dallas resident Mark Suneso (59).

“Five decades later, they are beginning to acknowledge it and say, yes, it happened here, and to let the healing continue.”

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