JFK50GT #7: Dealey
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.
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.
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
Closer examination of the sniper's hideout revealed 3
shell casings that would later be matched to Oswald's mail order Italian-made
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.
Friends of the JFK GeoTrail
Ted, David, & John