Friday, February 13, 2015

DALLAS: THE SIXTH FLOOR MUSEUM AT DEALEY PLAZA

There are many more places to visit in Dallas than we had time for, such as the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, so named because of a generous $50 million donation from the adult children of Ross and Margot Perot. For some reason the building reminds me of the forts kids build, complete with a piece of artillery sticking out the front. It is worth at least a drive-by. The next time I'm in Dallas, I'm going here just to see if the inside is as intriguing as the outside:

We saw the Perot Museum on our way to the Sixth Floor Museum at the Texas School Book Depository, a place that memorializes one of the darkest moments in American history, the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The tour starts with a cheerful photo mosaic of John and Jackie:

However, after that, its all about the horror and chaos of that day.


The museum has dozens of exhibits about the 1960s, Kennedy's presidency, Lee Harvey Oswald's life, the timeline of the assassination, the Abraham Zapruder film of the shooting, the Warren Commission investigation, Jack Ruby's murder of Oswald, various conspiracy theories, and so on. If I have one complaint, it's that there isn't a logical path through it all. Headsets are part of the admission fee, but I couldn't always find the display that matched the sequenced narration. There was a so much information--photography, videos, newspaper clippings, clothing, and random artifacts. There was also a re-creation of the corner of the six floor from which Oswald fired the fatal shots. Tourist photography was not allowed in the main part of the museum, so I can't remember all the exhibits, but trust me, they were extensive.

However, cameras were allowed on the basically empty third floor, and the view from the windows was really interesting. The Presidential motorcade came towards the building on Houston Street, seen in the photo below:

At 12:30 p.m. it made the hairpin turn at this corner onto Elm Street and started heading towards the right of the picture:
And as the motorcade got just a little past the green street signs visible between the trees (seen above and clearly visible below), Oswald pulled the trigger:
The Kennedys' limousine was in the middle lane at about the spot the gold van is in the photo below:
Oswald was on the sixth floor in the far right corner of the Texas School Book Depository Building:
Of course,  there are those who would disagree with this version of events. I noticed that someone highlighted the word "allegedly" on the placard that told the history of the building:

A morbid "X" is painted on the street where the limo was when JFK was struck by the first bullet.
Directly to the side of that X, on the far side of the sidewalk, is a marker placed by the National Park Service in 1993 that rather insipidly states,  "Dealy Plaza [the name of the park area adjoining and across the street from the Book Depository] has been designated a National Historic Landmark. This site possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America."
Behind the marker is the infamous "grassy knoll," topped by the pavilion where Abraham Zapruder was standing when he took his home movie of the procession, which turned out to be the only continuous film of the shooting:
He was standing on the concrete block at the front of the structure so that he could see over everyone's head:

Every now and then I have had a chance to stand right in the middle of history--but decades too late. What would (or could) I do if I could go back to that day in Dallas? Stephen King wrote a book that answers that question, at least for one of his characters. 11/22/63 is about a high school English teacher who travels back in time to 1958 with the express purpose of stopping the assassination.  I haven't read it, but it's on my list.

Before 1963, before the motorcade, this part of Dallas was famous.
A second pavilion stands in the triangular park across the street from the Texas School Book Depository Building.
It significantly pre-dates the Kennedy assassination. Who would have guessed what would happen here 23 years later?


3 comments:

  1. It's always interesting to visit these infamous sites and gain a new perspective. I'm surprised that the word "allegedly" is even in that sign--what are they suggesting?

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  2. I went there a few years ago as part of a convention of fingerprint examiners. I realize that investigations didn't have all the technology we have today but from my point of view there were some major anomalies in that particular incident.

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  3. I was six when Kennedy was assassinated and still have vivid memories of my first grade school teacher telling us he was shot, watching the Zapruder film, watching live television when Ruby shot Oswald and the tedium for me as the funeral train was the only thing on tv and the palpable black cloud that hung over the nation. I loved the museum, loved walking across the street where the "x" was and standing on the grassy knoll. It helped me to much better understand what happened. One of my most significant museum experiences.

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