Monday, November 22, 2010

JFK; Remembering That Day In Dallas- November 22, 1963



It's 2:00PM EST on November 22, 2010 as I post this.

Exactly 47 years ago to the minute (1:00PM CST) President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead in Trauma Room 1 in Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Within 40 minutes of Kennedy's shooting Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in a movie theater in connection with the shooting death of Officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald slipped into the theater without buying a ticket; Tippit had stopped Oswald for questioning after Kennedy was shot.

Before long the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza would be searched and a murder weapon, a Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle would be found on the 6th floor. A palm print belonging to Oswald would be found on the butt of the Carcano, plus records showing that he purchased it, and photos of him posing with the rifle. Oswald never got his day in court for the murders of Kennedy and Tippit; as we all know, Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered two days later by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

To all who were alive and at least of school age, the details of that November 22 and the following days will remain with you forever. I was in a shop class in junior high; when our teacher told us that Kennedy had been shot we thought het was pulling a bad joke. I remember looking outside and telling my classmates, no it's true....the flag was flying at half staff.

I went home that day and found my mother cleaning the oven with EASY-OFF. And she was crying. Later we sat down and watched the TV for hours. In those days there were only the Big Three Networks, but in the New York metro area we had four independent stations. The Indies stopped broadcasting their staples of cartoons, old movies, and reruns and just put a picture of the slain president on the screen, with somber funeral music in the background.

The networks stayed with the coverage of the events unfolding in Dallas, and of those in Washington, where Kennedy's body had been transported, and it's arrival with the widowed Jackie Kennedy, and the new President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Most of those images and words have become iconic, as were the reporters of the tragedy in Dallas.





I remember one of the reporters on TV holding up a copy of the DAILY MIRROR from London. The headline consisted of just three words.....


In so many ways, it was day in which the universe changed. You can say it marked the true end of the general era of good feeling we call "The Fifties" and the beginning of the turbulence, upheaval, and creativity and change of "The Sixties". The nation fell into a state of mourning that lasted into the holiday season. By the first day of 1964 a buzz was starting in America about a rock and roll band from Liverpool who would soon conquer America and the world, and change pop culture to an extent that no one has been ever able to equal.

A lot of people say that the assassination of JFK set the stage for the Beatles to take America by storm. Count me as one of those guys. After Kennedy's death the country was looking for something to pull them out of the dumps. The world seemed a bit colder and grayer. It took the arrival of the Beatles and the subsequent "British Invasion' to give the country a pick me up.....and in the course of doing so, not only was music changed but art, fashion, and films were transformed as well. In about 100 days after Dallas, all things British were considered good in the United States. No longer would pop culture be a unilateral American export.

The death of JFK also ushered in an era of assassination and attempted violence against public figures that lasted for nearly a generation. In the next 18 years Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X would be slain, George Wallace would be paralyzed, Gerald F. Ford would have two assassination attempts on him, and Ronald Reagan would be shot and seriously wounded. And of course John Lennon, part of the healing after JFK's murder, would ironically and sadly be murdered as well.

And JFK's death gave birth to another phenomenon- the Age of The Conspiracy Theory. We've dealt with conspiracies involving the deaths of most of those listed in the previous paragraph, the alleged murder of a Pope, conspiracies involving the death and possible marriage of Jesus Christ and his alleged descendants, of Vast Right Wing Conspiracies, and bigger Left Wing Conspiracies. Today we have birthers and truthers protesting (unsuccessfully) the legitimacy of the Obama Presidency.

And all the while I wonder, as do many others who look back on those events in Dallas in 1963...."what if?".

Just how different would our world be had those shots fired in Dealey Plaza missed? I wonder if the world we live in would have been better. Sometimes an enormous tragedy has ramifications in the fabric of time that runs longer than the lives of all who experienced it first hand.

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