The Kennedy assassination.
Few events of the 20th century evoke as much emotion, controversy and questions.
Yesterday, I went along with the FOX 11 crew that visited Dealey Plaza and The Sixth Floor Museum, the site of the assassination.
We first checked in at the museum, which, as its name indicates, is located on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository building. (Most of the building is currently a county administration building.) Investigators believe Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots from a corner window on the sixth floor on November 22, 1963. The area from where Oswald shot is enclosed in glass, while boxes of textbooks have been placed in a recreation of the “sniper’s nest” that was found after the shooting. While it’s not possible to look out the same window Oswald looked out of (in the photo to the right, it’s on the far right, second from the top), visitors can look down on Dealey Plaza from the next window over.
The rest of the museum includes exhibits on topics such as how news of President Kennedy’s death spread, a look at the camera Abraham Zapruder used to record the famous film footage of the shooting, Kennedy’s legacy and, of course, conspiracy theories. (For the record, it was clear from talking to the curator that he accepts the official finding that Oswald was the lone gunman). On the seventh floor is an exhibit on Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who fatally shot Oswald.
Visitors are generally not allowed to take photos inside the building, however, news crews were allowed to take limited pictures. I was able to put together a photo gallery, which you can see by clicking here.
Moving outside to Dealey Plaza, I was struck by the austerity of the place. The only indications that it was the site of one of the most transformational events in American history are a small historical marker on the curb and a marker painted on the pavement at the spot where the fatal shot hit the President.
The rest of the plaza is more or less an open, grassy area that’s easily recognizable from photographs or documentaries you might have seen. The only buildings on the site are three WPA-era structures on the north, south and east sides, commemorating the founding of Dallas. The underpass that the presidential motorcade famously sped through on the way to the hospital still exists. As the curator told us, aside from a few street lights having been moved and the natural growth of trees, Dealey Plaza has changed little since 1963.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the place, except for its history. But the place’s importance in history can’t be overstated.
What if President Kennedy had not been assassinated? Would history remember him as kindly? Would the rest of the 1960s have been as turbulent? What would America’s involvement in Vietnam have been? And how would Americans have viewed the war differently?
And those questions are completely separate from the question of why did the assassination happen in the first place? Was it the act of a single person whose reasons died with him in the basement of the police station? Or was it a larger conspiracy meant to redefine world events?
People searching for answers will find few clues at Dealey Plaza. Still, it is the site of an event which was immediately an integral part of our nation’s history. Seeing it first-hand can be a bit eerie if you stop to think about it, but it was an amazing experience to be at the location where the world changed that November day more than 47 years ago.