A Visit to Dealey Plaza (2015)
I’ve long been fascinated by the events surrounding the JFK assassination, sixty years ago today, on November 22, 1963.
So the idea of visiting Dealey Plaza in Dallas had been on my “bucket list” for years.
And it’s on an unexpected flight layover, coming back from vacation in 2015, that I finally get to see the famous site first-hand.
For me, finally being there in person feels like walking around in a dream.
I find it completely absorbing. It’s also surprisingly unchanged. A three-dimensional time portal of sorts, which has been waiting here patiently, largely untouched, for decades.
Given that this is on a random weekend in April, on a date of no particular significance, I’m also surprised to see how busy the plaza is.
Dozens of tourists prowl the scene. The setting has long captured the public imagination, and continues to fascinate, over fifty years later.
A cottage industry capitalizes on that fascination.
I ascend the “grassy knoll” area, and survey the scene.
Standing here, behind the infamous white picket fence, I’m surprised to see that this is actually a mediocre spot from which to attempt a shooting.
There are multiple obstructions, and poor visibility of the street from here.
Nevertheless, conspiracy-related graffiti adorns the inside of the fence itself.
Not far away, here’s the plinth (pedestal) on which Abraham Zapruder stood while filming the president’s motorcade with his home movie camera.
This spot offers an impressive panorama of that portion of Elm Street.
An “X” marks the location of the presidential limousine at the moment of the third and fatal shot.
Nearby is the former Texas School Book Depository building.
Now a piece of history, it’s been home to Dallas county offices since.
The sixth floor has been transformed into a portal into that history, as a museum with a series of exhibits which lead up to that infamous day in 1963.
The corner window area hosts a recreation of the sniper’s nest.
And while that window is tantalizingly out of reach for visitors, I discover the seventh floor window directly above it, which offers a nearly-identical view of the Plaza outside.
And as I stand here, and take in the iconic view … by an eerie coincidence, a couple of police motorcycles happen to whisk by on Elm Street, headed for the triple underpass. It takes them ten seconds or so to pass by, and then disappear out of view entirely.
Since this is the same route Kennedy’s motorcade followed on the fateful afternoon in 1963, it suddenly dawns on me that the actual assassination was about as fleeting as this pass-by just was. The whole thing would have been over, almost as fast as anyone realized what was happening.
I’m left with the irony of how those brief ten seconds or so would end up being analyzed and debated … endlessly, ad infinitum … for all of the half-century since.
“It would not be a very difficult job to shoot the president of the United States.
All you’d have to do is get up in a high building with a high-powered rifle with a telescopic sight, and there’s nothing anybody could do.”
— John F. Kennedy
Fort Worth, Texas
A few lesser-known notes about Lee Oswald:
April 10, 1963
November 22, 1963
- At 12:30pm, an eyewitness sees the assassin shoot Kennedy from the sixth floor corner window of the Texas School Book Depository building. Howard Brennan quickly provides the first description of the suspect to Dallas police, directing them to the sniper’s window above.
- At approximately 1:10pm, in the nearby Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, patrol officer J.D. Tippit notices a pedestrian matching the radio description of the assassin. Tippit asks Oswald to step over to the police car.
Oswald responds by murdering Tippit with a revolver, at close range.
- At approximately 1:50pm, in the nearby Texas Theater, police swarm in to arrest Oswald (hiding out in the darkened theater) for the murder of Tippit. Approached by police, Oswald assaults officer Nick McDonald, and nearly kills him as well using the same revolver.
William Manchester writes:
“Those who desperately want to believe that President Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy have my sympathy. I share their yearning.
“To employ what may seem an odd metaphor, there is an esthetic principle here. If you put six million dead Jews on one side of a scale and on the other side put the Nazi regime — the greatest gang of criminals ever to seize control of a modern state — you have a rough balance: greatest crime, greatest criminals.
“But if you put the murdered President of the United States on one side of a scale and that wretched waif Oswald on the other side, it doesn’t balance. You want to add something weightier to Oswald. It would invest the President’s death with meaning, endowing him with martyrdom. He would have died for something. A conspiracy would, of course, do the job nicely.”
- “Killing Kennedy”
A 2013 made-for-television movie about Oswald. It provides a good overview of his life in the early 1960s, his relationship with Marina, and the events leading up to November 22nd.
amazon, apple, google; wikipedia.org
- Case Closed by Gerald Posner
An impressively-detailed work of investigative journalism regarding the case. Recommended.
Other well-regarded works:
- Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi
- The Death of a President: November 20 — November 25, 1963 by William Manchester
Text and original photos © Ron Diamond. All rights reserved.