Like many of my contemporaries from the Baby Boom generation, we know where we were in the morning and afternoon of November 22, 1963. That, of course, is the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas as his limousine traveled through Dealy Plaza.
On that day our principal announced the tragic news on the intercom and we all headed home. I remember riding a city bus where men and women were weeping openly. I remember going home and turning on the television to hear CBS newsman Walter Cronkite announce the death of the president as he held back tears. I remember being shocked to see the First Lady with a blood-stained suit stand next to Lyndon Baines Johnson as he was given the oath of office on Air Force One. And I remember that cold day in November when the cortege carrying the body of the President made its way through the crowded streets of Washington passing little John John, who saluted his father, while the remaining Kennedy brothers stood in stunned silence. These images will never leave me.
Since that day in November there have been thousands of books written about the assassination, many suggesting that there was some kind of conspiracy involving in no particular order the CIA, the military, the mafia, the Cubans, the Russians, and a cabal of business elites. I don’t believe any of these theories.
I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, a disturbed and angry loner who defected from the Marines to the Soviet Union, killed the president because the failed Bay of Pigs invasion did not remove the communist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Over the years scientific and forensic experts, not film makers like Oliver Stone or journalists and self-described ” investigators” have shown that one bullet could indeed hit the president and move through the body of Texas Governor John Connolly and remain pristine.
Also experts have dismissed the grassy knoll theory which was based on the movement of the President’s head backwards as he was hit with the third bullet. Reconstruction of the President’s skull showed the bullet could only have come from the rear. It is clear that Oswald acted alone.
But too much of the accent of the Kennedy assassination is wasted on conspiracy rather than on what the death of the President meant to the country. Kennedy was no saint but he represented a new direction for the country, a desire to bring change in race relations, dealing with poverty, foreign policy and the national economy.
Some have said that the death of President Kennedy ended our innocence as a people who grew up in the ” Happy Days” atmosphere of the post-war era only to see that image destroyed; others have said that the assassination ended Camelot, a time of beauty and elegance. But sadly the death of President Kennedy ushered in a time of war, violence, social upheaval and further assassinations of our leaders. In many respects we never returned to the ” Happy Days” or Camelot. Those times ended in a few seconds in Dallas on November 22, 1963.