JFK50GT #6: Dealey
The motorcade arrives and an assassin prepares
Kennedy's motorcade entered Dealey Plaza around 12:30
by turning north off Main Street onto N. Houston, then turning sharply to the
left onto the undulating curves of Elm Street. The plan was for the President
to take Elm Street down the hill towards the triple underpass then turn north
onto Stemmons Freeway to the Trade Mart. That plan
never fully materialized.
were heavy on that Friday, as many people were on their lunch breaks and
excited to see the first U.S. President to visit Dallas in 15 years. The crowd
was estimated at 200,000. As the President was heading down Main Street, an
employee of the Texas School Book Depository, who was hired just two months
earlier, was preparing for his arrival.
The Book Depository then, and . . .
How it looks now. This photo is made from the exact spot
where President Kennedy was first struck.
Oswald was one of only three people on the 6th floor that day. Two
other workers were repairing the old wood floor that was in bad disrepair.
Oswald was a well-trained and experienced marksman who twice in two years
earned awards for his marksmanship with the Marines. He had carefully arranged
stacks of boxes to conceal his position from others on the floor, to steady his
aim, and to allow him to swivel along the Elm Street motorcade route. The view
afforded from the sniper's nest allowed a clear view of the entire street just
above several live oak trees that gave him additional cover from those gathered
below. He brought his rifle to work that day in a brown paper wrapper that he
told others at the Book Depository was a package of curtain rods. As the
Presidential motorcade turned off N. Houston, he was well ensconced at his
position, and well-hidden from others.
This photo was taken as the motorcade worked its way north
on Houston, ready to turn left on Elm. Notice that the 6th floor
window on the far right is open. That window is where Oswald laid in wait. Two
workers peering out of the 5th floor windows right below, also seen
open in this photo, reported hearing 3 loud shots right above them.
As the lead
vehicle passed his perch, just about 165 feet away, the first of 3 shots rang
out. Most observers attributed the first loud blast to a backfire or some other
non-threatening noise, but by the second shot, nearly everyone realized that
the plaza patrons were under fire. With the echo of the ravine leading to the
triple underpass and the abrupt change from excitement to terrible fear, no one
initially knew for sure where the shots were coming from as nearly everyone
ducked for cover.
The final turn from Houston to Elm was a sharp one,
requiring the motorcade to slow down to a crawl.
The crowd thinned on Elm Street since the motorcade would
soon speed up on the Stemmons Freeway with the formal
procession concluded. Still everyone was smiles just seconds before the first
Gayle Newman, and their boys Billy and Clayton (4 and 2 years old at the time)
were the closest civilians to the lead vehicle as the first shot struck
President Kennedy. As the loud rifle blasts broke through the celebratory
cheers, Mr. and Mrs. Newman dropped to the ground covering their two boys to
protect them from harm. In live television interviews only 15 minutes later,
Mr. Newman described the gruesome scene, clearly disturbed by what he had seen.
Even as he censored his own descriptions for the TV audience it was clear that
wounds he depicted were very likely fatal ones for President Kennedy.
Bill and Gayle Newman look up relieved that the gunfire
has ended and their family is safe.
News photographers capture the Newman's