The Kennedy assassination, 50 years later

Kates and I have been DVR'ing and watching the Kennedy documentaries and tributes almost nightly for the last couple weeks. There was a lot to take in, and by the time the anniversary actually arrived Friday it was a little anticlimactic.

Nonetheless, I watched some of the commemoration ceremony from Dallas online over my lunch break. We watched NBC Nightly News' recap that evening. And a couple more documentaries this weekend, wrapping up with today's anniversary of the the president's funeral.

I suppose my first exposure to what happened that day in Dallas was my Dad's 45rpm record of Tom Clay's medley, "What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin, and John." I listened to it often, and the words of those audio clips remain seer ed in my memory. The little boy trying to understand the meaning of complicated words at the beginning of the record. The reporter relaying that "something is wrong here, something is terribly wrong" in Dallas. Martin Luther King's final speech. And Edward Kennedy's eulogy at Robert Kennedy's funeral: "Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not."

But I had no understanding of the magnitude of those events until November 1988. I'm just old enough to remember the 25th anniversary of the assassination that year and all of the programming that aired then. On what was then just our home's four network channels. I've been fascinated with the Kennedy story ever since. 

Through it all, I've never put much stock in all of the conspiracy theories. And after watching this year's batch of documentaries, I believe more than ever that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter — even though 71 percent of Americans supposedly believe otherwise. CNN's "The Assassination of President Kennedy" — with its firsthand accounts — and the History Channel's "Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live" — which retraced Oswald's and Jack Ruby's actions during that infamous weekend — were especially fascinating as they debunked many of the myths and conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination.

By far, the best program we watched, though, was National Geographic's "JFK: The Final Hours." So accustomed we've become to the black and white footage from those days, "The Final Hours" was extraordinary in its wealth of rarely seen color footage, most of which was filmed by the White House cinematographer. It added new depths to the eventual heartbreak of the Kennedys' Texas tour and the aura of the Kennedy presidency.
The actor Bill Paxton is the narrator, mostly because he, too, is a Texan who, as a child, was in the crowd of well-wishers that morning. Neither Mr. Paxton nor other bystanders can explain what happened; they can only describe how shattered they felt. They serve as stand-ins for millions of other Americans — including network anchors and executives — who also felt they shared one brief shining moment with that president. (The New York Times)

Good reads ...
a 50 years later, JFK assassination remains in local memories
a 50 Years Later, a Changed Dallas Grapples With Its Darkest Day
a Footage of Death Plays On in Memory
a The City With a Death Wish in Its Eye
a On 50th anniversary of JFK death - tears, memories, suspicion
a How America has changed since JFK
a Jacqueline Kennedy’s Smart Pink Suit, Preserved in Memory and Kept Out of View
a Chicago Tribune front pages: JFK's shocking assassination
a The New York Times pages
a CNN: The Assassination of President Kennedy
a The Dallas Morning New: JFK50
a The Cagle Post: JFK 50 cartoons

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