Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Historic Places: Dallas, Texas

Model of  Assassination Scene
Sixth Floor Museum
I recently had the opportunity to take a quick trip to Dallas. This was primarily to watch my youngest son play basketball, but I managed to eke out a couple of hours to take in a bit of history as well. Although I know that Dallas has a much richer history than any single event, the locations that I chose to visit in my limited free time were the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and the John F Kennedy Memorial Plaza in downtown Dallas.

This area looks much as it did on that fateful day in 1963. Cars whiz past large Xs on Elm Street that mark the points where the first and fatal shots hit our 35th president. The 6th floor Book Depository window has a view only slightly more obscured by trees than it was 56 years ago. It is eerie to look down on the street with the same view that Lee Harvey Oswald took advantage of with so little thought to the consequences of his actions.

Sixth Floor Museum
When reading The Death of a President by William Manchester, this was one point that came through loud and clear. While the country - no, the world - mourned the death of Jack Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was one of the few people who enjoyed an untroubled night of rest. We were not given the opportunity to learn how he could commit one of the most atrocious crimes of the century and then sleep peacefully, since Oswald was himself assassinated two days later. He almost died in the same room as the president he had killed, except quick-thinking employees at Parkland Hospital diverted his gurney to Trauma Room 2, instead of 1 where it had been headed.

View from Sixth Floor Museum
What did the nation lose on November 22, 1963? We can never fully know, but quotes left behind by JFK give us some clues. Some are profound. "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." Others are bold and courageous. "The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." And others are downright creepy. "If anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it was not a very difficult job. All one had to do was get a high building...with a telescopic rifle." (JFK to Ken O'Donnell 11/22/63)

The Sixth Floor Museum offers a comprehensive review of Kennedy's presidency and the assassination. Conspiracy theories are summarized but not reviewed in depth. I enjoyed it, even knowing most of the information presented before visiting. My 15-year-old, who has been dragged through more historic sites than he could list, gave it his highest possible recommendation. "It was actually interesting." 😉

John F Kennedy Memorial Plaza
We also walked through the John F Kennedy Memorial Plaza nearby. I have to admit, I thought it looked more like a giant jail cell than a heartfelt memorial. According to the accompanying plaque, the artist's intent for the design was "a place of quiet refuge, an enclosed place of thought and contemplation separated from the city around, but near the sky and earth." I could see what they were going for once I read the architect's vision, but it still did not appeal to me. What do you think of it?
A simple slab with John Fitzgerald Kennedy's name on it is enough to evoke emotion within the memorial plaza structure.

"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers."  
~ John F Kennedy, October 26, 1963