JFK50GT - A Day In Dallas
John F Kennedy GeoTrail

JFK50GT #7: Dealey Plaza 2


Main Street Motorcade

The festive crowds had lined up along Main Street all morning long to get close to a real live President. Mothers brought their children, allowing them to skip school just this once. Workers from the rural towns nearby drove in to see their President. As lunch hour came, more people left their offices and flowed out onto the streets. They wanted to see JFK, and they wanted to see Jackie. What new fashions would Jackie be sporting? As they drove past Neiman Marcus, the clothing designers should have been taking notes because usually today's Jackie dress was tomorrow's best-seller.

As the motorcade started its procession down Main Street, it repeatedly slowed down for cheering crowds of people flowing out on the street. Main Street was at least several people deep on both sides of the street from Harwood to Houston. The crowd was so enthusiastic and supportive, that is hard to find anyone without a big smile on their face when looking at video footage of the Kennedy's trip down Main Street.

Dealey Plaza, November 22, 1963

Meanwhile, just west of Main Street, the crowd thinned considerably. The main procession was over, after all. Elm Street provided a motorcade vantage point mostly for those who made it downtown later than planned. Bill and Gayle Newman and their two young boys, watched on Elm Street from the Grassy Knoll. When they arrived, they couldn't find anywhere else to park.

Abraham Zapruder, who owned a women's clothing manufacturing company, worked right across N. Houston Street from the Book Depository. Zapruder's secretary urged him to film the President using the new camera he had just purchased the previous year. Zapruder eventually agreed and ran home to get his video camera. Upon returning to Dealey Plaza with his secretary, he found a cement pedestal above the Grassy Knoll as the best remaining place to get a clear view of the activities.

Railroad workers leaned over the edge of the overpass at the base of Elm Street where it merged onto Stemmons Freeway. So, the people on Elm Street came to see the show the best they could, being that all the prime real estate along Main Street was packed to capacity. As it turned out, the day's historic events occurred right in front of these people in Dealey Plaza, a scene that many of the observers wished they had never seen.

Under Fire

Entering Dealey Plaza in the open Presidential limousine, Nellie Connally, wife of the Texas Governor, turned to President Kennedy and told him, "Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you." Within seconds of turning onto Elm Street, the mood abruptly changed as they were under attack within seconds. The first bullet that hit any of the occupants in the Presidential limousine struck the President in the upper back and neck, striking his spine and the top of his right lung. The bullet exited his throat, grazing the knot in his tie. He can clearly be seen raising his elbows, clenching his fists, and leaning forward and to the left in response to this shot. The same bullet is the only one that injured Texas Governor John Connally, who was sitting in the middle jump seat just in front of the President. The bullet entered under his right armpit and destroyed a rib and created a sucking chest wound, which is a serious life-threatening injury that requires urgent care. After exiting through the front of his chest, the bullet shattered one of the two bones in his right forearm before lodging in his right thigh. Connally shouted out, "my God, they're going to kill us all!" The very next shot was the fatal head shot to President Kennedy. The gruesomeness from the final shot left little doubt to anyone close to the event as to the outcome for the President.

This is one of the most famous photos made at the time of the attack. Abraham Zapruder can be standing on the pedestal in the background, with his secretary standing behind him and supporting him as he films. The film was auctioned this month, but did not meet its minimum bid, and thus was not sold. Other auction houses declined to offer the photo, feeling that it is too gruesome a souvenir.

The recollections of all present are too awful to recount here, and in fact, Mrs. Kennedy's description of the scene was so awful that to humanely honor the President's memory, the Warren Commission deleted her remarks on this topic from the official proceedings.

The limousine quickly departed the scene heading straight for Parkland. The President's final wound was fatal and beyond the scope of any medical aid. Governor Connally, however, was in urgent need of first aid for his chest wound, and further evaluation and care for his other injuries.

Book Depository

Back inside the Texas School Book Depository, Oswald quickly hid his rifle down the hall from his 6th floor perch and headed down towards the exits. He was met on the 2nd floor in the break room by an armed police officer. Roy Truly, Oswald's supervisor, identified him as an employee, and the officers moved on, continuing their search of the building. Later Truly reported him missing to the police, which helped to quickly locate and arrest Oswald.

After the gunfire, Lee Harvey Oswald was confronted by police in this 2nd floor break room in the Book Depository. His supervisor verified that Oswald was an employee there, and the police let him go to move forward with their search.

Upon reaching the far east window facing Elm Street on the 6th floor, the police officers were greeted by a carefully arranged sniper's nest.

Closer examination of the sniper's hideout revealed 3 shell casings that would later be matched to Oswald's mail order Italian-made military rifle.

Oswald's rifle was found tucked between some boxes down the hall from his hideout. Upon later inspection, a palm print was matched to Oswald that he could have only made when the weapon was disassembled.

Dealey Plaza 50 Years Later

On November 22, 2013, the day once again started out as a cold and windswept day in Dallas and Ft. Worth. Unlike 50 years earlier, the rain hung around off and on for much of the day with strong gusting winds on an overcast day and temperatures in the 40's. It was not an open top limousine kind of day.

Events were planned and news media began gathering before 8:30am. By 9:30am almost all of the 600 credentialed press members (of the 1,000 media members who applied) were onsite. At 9:30 in the morning, the ticketed general public was allowed entrance. To gain one of these 5,000 tickets for the general public, applications had to be filled out months ago and every single person was subjected to security clearance screening before obtaining a ticket on a first come first served basis. The weather seemed like it would reduce these numbers. Security was heavy throughout downtown, and many of the streets on the west side of Dallas were closed until 4pm. In one more attempt to break with the city's past, the security was much tighter than 50 years ago.

Speeches were given and dedications made as the city of Dallas tried to exorcise its past. That past initially caused the occasional New York cabbie to bodily throw people out of his car when he found out they were from Dallas. Additional atrocities, inconveniences, and foul language regularly befell other Dallasites all across the country for several years. Dallas was the city that killed Kennedy, fair or not. Even decades later Dallas residents, especially those who had grown up in the city or its suburbs, felt the weight of the world because of the events of that horrible day. Since then, everyone in Dallas has felt a collective sense of failure and embarrassment, deserved or not. It was as if we in the city had committed a crime and no apology or remorse was going to be accepted. November 22, 2013, was the day where the city finally tried to change all that.

Famous historian and author, David McCullough delievered excerpts of Kennedy speeches. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told Dallas citizens that they, "had to step up and try to live up to the envisions of our beloved president." The somber 44-minute ceremony was broadcast on every Dallas television station, many national news stations, and virtually every Dallas radio station up and down the dial. The long term effect of this day on the cumulative Dallas psyche remains to be seen.

I think the purpose of this John F. Kennedy 50 Year Memorial GeoTrail is summed up best by one of the attendees who is a self-professed JFK fan: "it makes me want to see where everything happened." Well, now you, fellow geocacher, have your very own map and tour guide to see and read about it all. We hope you enjoy the adventure and experience something new.

Best wishes,

Friends of the JFK GeoTrail

Ted, David, & John