|Dealey Plaza with the School Book Depository|
in the background
Our flight home from Buenos Aires went through Dallas, so we decided to break up the long flight and spend a couple day here in a city that we’ve never explored. Our Hilton Hotel was positioned just 5 short blocks from Dealey Plaza, the infamous square that went into the history books at 1:40 PM on 22 November 1963. We’ve all seen the TV shots and the Zapruder film of the place where President John Kennedy was killed on that unforgettable day. But as many times as we’ve watched the incident on TV, we had never seen the actual layout of Dealey Plaza in person.
|Window in the School Book Depository where |
Oswald fired three shots (note: the cardboard boxes
seen in the window are just as they were back in 1963)
With directions from the hotel’s front desk, it was an easy, almost straight 10-minute walk down busy Elm Street to Dealey Plaza. We set out on foot to explore. And there it was in all its “surreal splendor:” the School Book Depository building, the one we had seen so many times thru the years on TV. As we stood at the front entrance to that building and pondered the events of that time, it slowly sank in that this was the place where the murder of a president took place in broad daylight over 50 years ago. It was eerie how familiar the plaza looked even though we had never been here before. Aside from the matured trees, the area was virtually unchanged in appearance since 1963.
By seeing it in person, we could get a sense of the scale by actually walking around the plaza and visiting the various places so often talked about by newsmen who covered the horror of that day.
|X marks the spot where the shooting |
took place on Elm St.
Each important component of Dealey Plaza was marked with plaques that indicated what had happened there. Both of us had vivid memories of the assassination from our youth and being here really brought the past to life, adding depth & breadth to the unforgettable events. There was the “grassy knoll,” and the spot where Abraham Zapruder stood as he filmed the event with his simple Bell & Howell movie camera; also, the lawn where onlookers ducked for cover as the shots rang out, the clearly visible end window on the 6th floor of the School Book Depository where the 3 shots originated, the underpass where the motorcade sped away after the shooting, and even an “X marks the spot” on the exact spot on Elm Street where the bullet first hit the president.
|The famous grassy knoll|
Next, we went to the 6th floor of the School Book Depository and spent 3½ hours devouring all the information on display. The museum had very few artifacts, but effectively recreated the era along with the politics and the emotions through a mix of visual displays and audio guides that included firsthand descriptions by people who were there. There were several mini auditoriums strewn around the 6th floor for brief videos on events of the era. The corner where the actual shooting took place was sealed up in with a plexiglas see-thru wall, and the cardboard boxes that shrouded Oswald’s movements were positioned exactly as he had stacked them on that day. Of course they also displayed a bolt action 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano Italian Carbine with a 4 power scope attached, exactly like the one that killed Kennedy; Oswald had bought this gun thru a mail-order add for about $13.
|View from the School Book Depository|
The museum was very moving despite the lack of official artifacts. The museum took us back to the “Camelot days” of the Kennedy administration and reminded us of JFK’s inspiring vision of the future. For us, it was like reliving a time that deeply affected our lives. In retrospect, we can see that JFK’s assassination, and all the violence that followed, set in motion a changed world, which is still experiencing the effects of those gunshots even today.
|George W. Bush Presidential Library|
George W. Bush Presidential Library
We had never seen a presidential library before, so we took a ride on the metro out to the George W. Bush Presidential Library located on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Campus.
|Laura and President G.W. Bush|
As you would expect, the part of the library that we saw was more of a museum, highlighting the accomplishments of the George W. Bush administration with heavy accent on the days of 9/11 and post 9/11.
|Actual twisted World Trade Center girder|
One of the best exhibits was the room where a massive piece of twisted girder from the World Trade center surrounded by walls covered with the names of all who had died that day. We were encouraged to touch the steel, and that in itself was a very moving experience.
|"Texas Chainsaw Massacre"|
They also had a “down-home” style video hosted by the Bush twin daughters (Jenna and Barbara) that emphasized George’s sense of humor and was pretty funny. The best line had to do with George’s penchant for chopping down woodland trees and cleaning out the brush on their Texas ranch; his girls refer to it as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
|Dallas at night|
We had an interesting time in Dallas, but it is definitely a city of contrasts. On the one hand, it is an impressive modern city of stunning architecture and dramatic skyscrapers. On the other, it is a city of homeless people who asked us for money everywhere we went. One man was quite aggressive and shouted nasty things at us when we declined to give. Anne noted that of all the places in the world we have visited, she felt most unsafe in Dallas!
As you know, we usually fly United, but for this trip we flew LAN (which we praised earlier) and American Airlines. We want to give kudos to American Airlines also for their professionalism and high level of customer service. Our flights were even reasonably comfortable with some extra leg room; that made a huge difference. In the future, we’ll be flying American whenever we can.
As always, until our next adventure, we thank you all for traveling with us, and for all your kind questions & comments regarding this trip. Our next trip will be to Iceland, so stay tuned and we’ll let you know as the details unfold.
|In a replica of the Oval Office, Frank's thinking about|
making a run for Pres!