Dallas’ moment in the world’s spotlight was a dark day in American history. The assassination of John F. Kennedy occurred over 50 years ago, but the impact is felt even today by visitors who never shared the same air as the President.
I would consider myself a history buff and one who has read quite a bit about that day and the circus of events following. So I was very excited to book a ticket to Dallas and see the sites for myself.
The story of the assassination centers on Oswald and what he was up to before and after. The home in which Oswald was living at the time is available for tours and pictured below. While we didn’t do the tour, it is a short drive away from the other sites and worth viewing.
We’ll get to the assassination site in a minute, but first let’s stay in the Oak Hill neighborhood. After the act, Oswald was reported missing to Dallas Police. Officer J.D. Tippet spotted him but ended up on the losing end of his altercation with Oswald. After murdering Tippet and now officially on the run, Oswald ducked into the Texas Theatre. A nearby shopkeeper saw him go in there to hide and officers apprehended without incident inside.
Dallas JFK Memorial
Other than thoroughness or as a way to pass the time until your timed entrance ticket to the to the Sixth Floor Museum becomes valid, I don’t really recommend a visit the JFK Memorial. Sorry. I was not a fan (other than playing around it’s walls with my 2-year old cousin). The site is bleak, the fountain was dry and it just felt forgotten. Not a great memorial by any stretch of the imagination. But, we had fun.
Downtown, near the Philip Johnson-designed JFK memorial, I found a local lady offering photos in her Lincoln Continental for a donation. I couldn’t do it. Would you go to the 9/11 museum and smile in front of a twisted steel beam? I don’t get it.
Oh well, America is nothing if not enterprising.
Back to the School Book Depository
While, as I said, I would consider myself a history buff—I would not consider myself a conspiracy theorist. All around the building you feel the cloud of conspiracy. There are opportunistic conspiracy theorists (aka street merchants) roaming Dealey Plaza attempting to sell you JFK-related newspapers, asking for tips when pointing out where the second shooter was located.
Most interestingly on the building plaque it is stamped “ALLEGEDLY” – and then forcefully underlined by some vandal along the way.
Photography is not permitted in the Sixth Floor Museum, so I have nothing to show you there. However, the museum is a really great experience. The sixth floor is filled with photos and multimedia exhibits. Twisting around with the rest of the crowd you’ll learn about the climate of the county and the histories of the two men who are forever linked in the history books. But let’s be honest, you’re really there to see the spot where Oswald pulled the trigger.
That spot is recreated with replica boxes and a replica rifle. It’s surrounded by a glass enclosure, so you really can’t get a view from that vantage point.
The closest you can get to photographically recreating what Oswald saw that day is with a visit to the corner of the seventh floor. Photos are allowed on this floor.
Although these days the only shooting being done is by all the tourists dodging traffic and looking back at you while standing on the morbid white X in the middle of Commerce Street.
Speaking of that white X, for the 50th anniversary, the city of Dallas actually removed and repaved that stretch of roadway. While they said they didn’t purposefully remove the X, the mayor did say he wanted “a dignified event that focuses on Kennedy’s life, rather than the voyeurism of a murder.”
In any event, the X is back.
A few thoughts
The events of that day created a very lucrative JFK tourism market. I found myself a little conflicted and yet in awe of how much Dallas has been able to turn national tragedy into a cash cow. For instance, the 9/11 Memorial was skewered for charging entrance fees and selling 9/11 items in their gift shop. At another spot of tragedy, the USS Arizona, I was actually moved to tears. Why didn’t I have the same reaction here?
It’s because it is not treated as a sacred place. Historic replica newspaper peddlers point to the supposed second gunman’s location on the grassy knoll and vie for your attention and tips. The grass is worn ragged around Dealey Plaza’s sidewalks. There are no flowers. No park rangers. The spot where a great American died is marked callously with a white X. With every red light at Commerce and N Houston Streets, waves of people trample out to the middle of the street to take a photo. It’s a free-for-all.
The Sixth Floor Museum offers a 24-hour webcam of the sniper’s view – and even had the gall to title a press release “EarthCam Honors JFK with Exclusive Webcam Experience from the Sniper’s Perch.” What an honor.