Friday, November 22, 2013

That Day in Dallas

I was five years old, watching As the World Turns with my mother the way we always did during lunch, when Walter Cronkite broke in to announce that President Kennedy had been shot.

I lived in Oak Cliff, the south part of Dallas, a few miles from where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured later that day at the Texas theater. My family was acquainted with the police officer who was shot and killed when he confronted Oswald on an Oak Cliff street.

I remember my mother crying. It was probably the first time I saw her cry. As she made up the beds after we'd gotten the news she punched the pillows harder than usual, as she said "Why would anyone want to do that to that man?!"

I went outside and climbed up to the top of our swing set in the backyard. From my perch I could look to the north and see the skyline of downtown Dallas on the horizon. I have a very strong memory of thinking how strange it was that the things they were talking about on TV were really happening, right over there.

For the next several days there was nothing but news coverage about the assassination on TV, including the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and then the President's funeral. The images stay with me - Caroline kneeling with her mother beside the flag draped coffin in the rotunda, the caisson carrying the coffin, the grief-stricken faces of Mrs. Kennedy and the President's brothers, the horse with the backward boots, John John's salute and the eternal flame.

When I was a teenager I went on trips with my church's youth choir. Sometimes, after singing at a church in another city, we would stay in the home of the church's members. Once, I recall our host making comments about us being from Dallas, the "city that killed the president."

As I grew up in Dallas , I went to movies at the Texas Theater, worked a couple of summer jobs near where Officer Tippett was shot, and often drove along Stemmons Freeway overlooking Dealy Plaza and the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

But never without thinking of that awful day.