Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Dallas School Book Depository

If ever there was a building that no one in the world would have heard of except the people who worked there, it was the Dallas School Book Depository. That all changed on November 22, 1963 when Lee Harvey Oswald aimed a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle at the head of President John F. Kennedy, and burned the name of that building into our memories and the pages of history. How many times during the weeks that followed JFK's assassination did we hear the words "Dallas School Book Depository" mentioned in the news?

In 1963 the building, located in Dealey Plaza, was in use as a seven-story warehouse for the storage of school textbooks. On that fateful day in November, Oswald, a 24-year-old former U.S. Marine who was working as a holiday-rush temporary employee at the building, fired rifle shots from the sixth floor of the Depository into the motorcade of John F. Kennedy. Anyone who lived through that tragedy and its aftermath will never forget the image of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy cradling the head of her mortally wounded husband in her lap as pandemonium erupted around her. The motorcade raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital, but sadly it was too late for Kennedy.

Still reeling from news footage of the shooting, Americans were jolted again two days later when Oswald was shot and killed on camera by a shadowy mobster-wanna be named Jack Ruby while being escorted to a car for transfer from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail. The conclusion of many in law enforcement at the time, including the FBI, and the Presidentially-appointed Warren Commission, was that Oswald acted alone. The second major investigation by the U S Government of the events of 11/22/63 in Dallas, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, concluded that there was a high degree of probability of conspiracy in the murder of the 35th President of the United States.

The entire scenario, had it not actually transpired, would probably have been rejected as not believable had it been presented as a screen play. A lone, disaffected sniper who had failed miserably at everything else in his life, taking out the President of the United States in broad daylight under the noses of the police and the Secret Service was too implausible to ponder. I feel the same way about the destruction of the twin towers at the World Trade Center by a bunch of bumbling terrorists who confounded our "world-class" intelligence and anti-terrorist forces...how could it happen?

Those of us who were around in 1963 will always remember where we were on that sad day. I was at a job interview chatting amiably with some H.R. guy when his secretary walked in. He was annoyed at the interruption, but our jaws dropped when she blurted out that the President had been shot. Naturally we broke off the interview, and I don't recall if I got the job. I do remember going home and being glued to the TV set for the next couple of days watching this unlikely drama unfold. Later, during the funeral, we were presented with more images that would remain with us forever...the riderless black horse following the hearse to symbolize our fallen leader, and the heartbreaking picture of his young widow and her children watching, little John-John saluting, as his father's casket passed by.

The Kennedys, like most politicians, would be proven by history to have feet of clay. Things were much different though in 1963. My eyes well up thinking about that day and the sense of loss we all felt over the death of a man who many believed was the hope of the free world.


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3 comments:

The Whiner said...

Very interesting stuff...and very sad. I wonder what would have happened had he lived. I guess the questions for us those too young to remember 1963 will be "where were you on 9-11?"

Jim Pantaleno said...

It's exactly the same kind of defining moment Laura. Hopefully Ava's generation will have more positive moments like true world peace.

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

As long as people hate what we stand for as a nation in this world, we will never have peace.