After 40 or so years of visiting the Dallas area, with literally hundreds of layovers at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, I have never actually been in downtown Dallas, until today.
This morning I woke up at my hotel at 1700 Commerce Street. It was going to be a hot day, so a morning walk at 7:00am seemed like the right thing. I was within a mile of the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I walked down Main Street heading east and soon reached the famed, or infamous, Dealey Plaza. Here is a map, and the red arrow shows the exact location of Kennedy’s death.
I was there around 7:00 in the morning and there were no tourists yet. It was all empty and quiet. Later in the day this area gets quite busy with many tourists walking around and taking pictures. I avoided all that by being there early.
The above photograph shows the location of Kennedy’s death (red arrow) and the window where the shooter sat (blue arrow). The address of the building is 411 Elm Street in Dallas. It was a book depository in 1963.
Here is another view from a little further away. You can see there was hardly any traffic that early in the morning.
Here is another view of the same spot, this time from the center of Dealey Plaza. If you click on my photograph and zoom in where the arrow points you may see a white X that is actually marked on the street on the very spot.
Bob Dylan wrote a very moving song in his last album Rough and Rowdy Ways titled Murder Most Foul. The song is about the Kennedy assassination.
Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63A day that will live on in infamy President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
You can find the full lyrics here. I recommend you listen to the song. I can’t post it here for copyright reasons.
The sixth and seventh floor of the former book depository are now a museum named The Sixth Floor Museum. It opens at 10:00am, so I had to come back later to visit the museum. I it did not regret it. There are countless exhibits of posters, photographs and audiovisuals.
This picture shows an exact copy of the rifle that was used. The actual rifle that killed the president is at the National Archives.
And most eerie and deeply disturbing, here is the window from where the shot was fired. The area is enclosed by glass in the museum, and the book boxes are of course staged. There were book boxes the shooter used to rest the rifle.
I stood there for quite a while and let it sink in. This very spot was the place where U.S. history changed when a popular president was killed by a loser with a cheap gun.
I still remember the day. I was six years old and I had just started second grade in elementary school in Germany. My mother told me about what happened before I went to school. She wanted me to be informed in the event that the teacher brought it up.
When I was in the museum I watched some video clips of the day’s events. There were the ominous clips of the motorcade rolling down Main Street in Dallas, literally Kennedy’s last minutes alive, showing him waving to the crowds on both sides of the streets. Then the car reached Dealey Plaza and turned right onto North Houston Street before turning left again onto Elm Street to the fateful spot. I looked up and saw the building and the window where the shooter sat that very moment. He was not visible, but the window was definitely open – this was just seconds before.
In another clip, it showed the Kennedys arriving on Air Force One at Dallas Love Field that morning. It showed Jackie in the now famous bright pink outfit coming out of the plane and walking down the stairs, followed by the president. Lyndon Johnson greeted them. Eventually Kennedy entered the open limousine. As it pulled away, there was a Texas Lone Star flag behind the car, and right next to that flag was a Confederate Flag.
And that also made me stop and think.