There are moments in history when time stands still; the world halts its daily grind to watch and wait to see history unfold. These are the times where we all remember what we were doing and where we were when we heard or saw the events unfold or watched the news. A perfect example is the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Another one of the most-remembered tragedies in U.S. history is the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 23, 1963 in Dallas. For most of us, the series of events that followed on that fateful day are not only part of history, they are also etched in our minds forever. Many of us watched the accounts on television, saw the headlines about the death of a young president in newspapers, and looked at the emotionally gripping photos in both Time and Life magazine. It was a day, like others that followed, that has become frozen in time.
I was somewhere around 10 years old when the tragedy unfolded on our black and white television at home. I remember my mom and grandmother crying and the frantic reports that followed, including the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, and the emotionally gripping funeral in Washington where a young John F. Kennedy Jr. saluted his father’s casket as it passed. While I remember these events, the full emotional weight of their significance never hit me fully until recently.
While covering the NADM event as Dallas Raceway this past October, I made it a point to visit the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Place. The museum gives a quick synopsis of life and times of John F. Kennedy. More importantly, it chronicles his visit to Dallas on November 23, 1963 and the tragic events that followed, in emotionally gripping detail.
The museum is located on the sixth floor of what used to be the old Texas School Book Depository, the same site where Lee Harvey Oswald fired those fatal shots from the corner of that same floor. There is an exhibit of stacked boxes in that same corner that illustrates the sniper’s nest. But the emotionally moving view from the adjacent windows give you the same sniper’s eye view of Elm Street where Kennedy was killed with the exact location of the fatal shot being marked by a white X pained in the center traffic lane.
Being at the exact place of an event of such magnitude that is locked in history forever is a double-edged sword. It’s very moving, and even more emotional for me was the detailed account of what happened and the subsequent events that followed that fateful day. It was a gut-wrench and tearful visit, which apparently released nearly 45-plus years of pent-up feelings I never knew I had. After all, I was a kid when this went down.
Bottom line is that, if you are ever in Dallas for any reason, including diesel events from both the NHRDA and NADM, you need to make the pilgrimage to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas’s West End and take the emotional journey I did. For those of us who are old enough, it will open old wounds, and for those of you too young to remember, the history lesson learned there will stick with you forever, much as the memories of that fateful date have stuck with me all these years.