dallas: the sixth floor museum at dealey plaza

Tuesday, March 22:  This morning, Martha and I head to downtown Dallas to visit The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, housed in the former Texas School Book Depository Building.  Following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963, this building became the primary crime scene for the shooting after evidence of a sniper, later determined to be Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald, was found on the sixth floor (History of the Texas School Book Depository Building).

JFK's assassination route as seen from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
JFK’s assassination route as seen from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

We’re not allowed to take pictures inside the museum except on the 7th floor; from the window directly above where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly fired at the president, we have an excellent view of the assassination route on that tragic day. For some reason, I’m surprised by the route and the lay of the land, which I remember seeing on TV so many times over the years from varying angles.  I never pictured the site looking like it does.

JFK's assassination route - the road on the right is where Kennedy was shot
JFK’s assassination route – the road on the right is where Kennedy was shot

The excellent museum presents the social and political landscape of the early 1960s, chronicles President Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath, offers up numerous conspiracy theories, and reflects the president’s lasting impact on our country and world (Visit Dallas: Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza).  It’s a very moving exhibit and brings back a lot of memories for those of us who were alive at that sad time.

the route heading to the triple underpass
the route heading to the triple underpass

As for me, I was 8 years old and in 2nd grade at Reservoir Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.   I remember getting dismissed from school early and coming home to find my mother sobbing in front of the black & white television, mesmerized by the news coverage.  I was too young to understand the details, but I knew with certainty this was a tragic and sad event in our history.  I even remember crying with my mother.  Much later, when we experienced the September 11, 2001 catastrophe from the relative safety of our living rooms, it was much the same déjà vu experience as on that November day in 1963, except that the events of 2001 were in color rather than black & white.

the route heading to the triple underpass - where the cars raced after Kennedy was shot
the route heading to the triple underpass – where the cars raced after Kennedy was shot
Pool in the Dealey Plaza Historic District
Pool in the Dealey Plaza Historic District
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
Looking back over the pool to the Sixth Floor Museum
Looking back over the pool to the Sixth Floor Museum
Peristyle at Dealey Plaza
Peristyle and monument at Dealey Plaza

Across from the park is the Old Dallas County Criminal Courts Building, which in 1963 housed on its upper floors the Dallas County Jail.  Alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was being taken to this jail from the Dallas City Jail, on the 5th floor of the old Municipal Building on Harwood Street, when he was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Sunday, November 24, 1963.  This murder, which occurred in the old Municipal Building’s basement, was captured on live television.

According to Steven R. Butler, a Dallas historian, Jack Ruby was incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail and his trial took place here in 1964.  Found guilty and sentenced to death, Ruby died of natural causes while his verdict was on appeal in 1967.  Ruby died at Parkland Hospital, where both JFK and Oswald died (A Guide to the History of Dallas Texas).

Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Dallas County Criminal Courts Building
Elm Street heading to the triple underpass
Elm Street heading to the triple underpass

From the Historic Park, we can see the famous grassy knoll, a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became well-known following the president’s assassination. The knoll was above Kennedy and to his right (west and north) as his motorcade drove by.  You can see it below, with the bunch of trees to the left and the pergola to the right.

View of the assassination route from Dealey Plaza
View of the assassination route from Dealey Plaza
Memorial at the Grassy Knoll
Memorial at the Grassy Knoll
Grassy Knoll Memorial
Grassy Knoll Memorial

According to Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza: The words “grassy knoll” to describe this area were first used by UPI reporter Albert Merriman Smith, in his second dispatch from the radio-telephone in the press car: “Some of the Secret Service agents thought the gunfire was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the president’s car, probably from a grassy knoll to which police rushed.” These words were then repeated on national television by Walter Cronkite in his second CBS News bulletin.

The Grassy Knoll
The Grassy Knoll

According to Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza, of the 104 Dealey Plaza ear-witness reports published by the Warren Commission and elsewhere:

  • 56 recorded testimony that they remembered hearing at least one shot fired from the direction of the Depository or from near its Houston and Elm Streets intersection that was to the rear of the President
  • 35 witnesses recorded testimony of at least one shot fired from the direction of the grassy knoll or the triple underpass located to the right and front of the President
  • 8 witnesses gave statements of shots fired from elsewhere
  • 5 ear-witnesses  testified that the shots were fired from two different directions.

Conspiracy theories regarding the Kennedy assassination suggest that many people or organizations could have been involved in the assassination, with possible players ranging from President Fidel Castro of Cuba to sitting VP Lyndon Johnson to the CIA to the Mafia to the KGB.  There are claims that the U.S. Government covered up vital information in the aftermath.  Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. For more on this, see Wikipedia: John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories.

Because of persistent debate, unanswered questions, and conspiracy theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination and the possible related role of the grassy knoll, the term “grassy knoll” has come to also be a modern slang expression indicating suspicion, conspiracy, or a cover-up (Wikipedia: Dealey Plaza).

The wooden stockade fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll has been rebuilt several times since 1963 and is a reproduction of the original fence.

Fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll
Fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll

Martha and I walk up to the grassy knoll to see the view.  The “X” on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time.

View from the Grassy Knoll - the "X" on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time
View from the Grassy Knoll – the “X” on the road marks the spot where Kennedy was shot the second time
View from the Grassy Knoll to Dealey Plaza
View from the Grassy Knoll to Dealey Plaza

We walk behind the wooden fence and check out the view from behind it.  It seems like it would have been an easy enough place to hide and shoot a gun. Not that I’m experienced in that sort of thing, mind you!

Looking through the pickets of the fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll to the assassination route
Looking through the pickets of the fence at the top of the Grassy Knoll to the assassination route

We walk on the bridge crossing the triple underpass and get a view of Elm Street, where Kennedy was shot, on the left and the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building straight ahead.  To the right is the Old Courthouse.

view from atop the triple underpass
view from atop the triple underpass
Old Courthouse
Old Courthouse

During my visit to this part of the country, I end up experiencing several monuments to tragic events in American history, from the 9/11 exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum to the exhibit of JFK’s assassination at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which we’ll visit later this week.

Driving through Dallas
Driving through Dallas

After leaving downtown, we head to one of Martha’s favorite lunch spots in the Trinity Design District: The Meddlesome Moth.

The Meddlesome Moth
The Meddlesome Moth
Entrance to The Meddlesome Moth
Entrance to The Meddlesome Moth
Martha at The Meddlesome Moth
Martha at The Meddlesome Moth
Me at The Meddlesome Moth
Me at The Meddlesome Moth

At this classy restaurant, we both enjoy delicious Jumbo Lump Crab salads with celery root, arugula and meyer lemon.

Inside The Meddlesome Moth
Inside The Meddlesome Moth

After lunch, we visit Martha’s mom in her nursing home.  It’s nice to see her as I’ve known her for a long time; she was a part of my childhood since 1967, when Martha and I became friends.

Later in the evening, we relax with some wine in Martha’s backyard spa and then she prepares a delicious chicken and walnut stir-fry for dinner.

Sunset at Martha's house
Sunset at Martha’s house
Martha's pool and spa
Martha’s pool and spa

Tomorrow, we’ll drive about 3 hours to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where we’ll meet up with our other friends and have dinner with our friend Rosie and her husband-to-be, Jim.  Let the wedding festivities begin! 🙂

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “dallas: the sixth floor museum at dealey plaza

  1. Impossible to know how things would have turned out if he hadn’t been assassinated, isn’t it Cathy? Our politicians mostly end up being villains. I did have a soft spot for JFK, but then I rather Obama.

    1. Yes, it really does make one wonder how different things would have been had Kennedy not been killed. It seems most politicians ARE villains; I can tell you I’m very disgruntled with what’s happening here in the US right now with our primaries and the upcoming presidential election. Yes, Obama is a class act, unlike what may follow him after this election!

      1. It’s a lovely time of year, Cathy. 🙂 A bit chilly here after a lovely warm spell that I missed, but the flowers and blossom are looking wonderful. Hope all’s well with you?

      2. It’s been raining here for nearly two weeks nonstop, but the sun is finally peeking out this afternoon, Jo. I guess the rain does make for some wonderful gardens though. All is well; the renovation is coming along nicely. I can’t wait till it’s all done and we can sit outside on our screened-in porch! 🙂

  2. I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly what happened. I don’t remember this day – I was 6 and it was probably kept from me. I do remember Robert Kennedy being shot, we were sitting outside a hospital waiting for my dad who was visiting someone and listening to the news on the car radio.

    1. I don’t know if we’ll ever know what happened, either, Anabel. It seems like secrets are awfully hard to keep; someone always eventually leaks them, so it’s surprising the truth has yet to come out some 50+ years later! I remember Robert Kennedy being shot too; a very sad day that was for all of us. He was such an inspiration.

    1. It was a great day out with Martha, Sylvia. The Sixth Floor Museum was fascinating, and I was quite moved to go through it. So many tragedies, but then every country has theirs, don’t they? Have a great weekend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s