Fifty years ago tomorrow, I was in an Omaha hospital, fighting for my life. I was born with a gastro-intestinal defect—pyloric stenosis. My family thought I would die. I was baptized in the hospital and given extreme unction.
Tomorrow, we remember the murder of the 35th President of these United States.
I was born one month before President John F. Kennedy was murdered. On the street in this photograph. Elm Street. Dealey Plaza. Dallas. Most Americans, even if they’ve never been to Texas, have been to Dealey Plaza many times over courtesy of the Zapruder film.
A few years back, my work took me in early June to downtown Dallas. I stayed in the famous Magnolia Hotel. It was unseasonably hot, even for Texas. When I arrived in the afternoon, I determined that I would walk the eight blocks or so to this busy and strangely macabre site where our country was altered forever.
Dealey Plaza is virtually unchanged since that awful November morning 50 years ago. Perhaps this is by design of Dallas city government and zoning officers. I felt quiet and a tad eerie as I sat on a bench on the grassy knoll, within the shadow of the old Texas Book Depository building, now housing the Sixth Floor Museum.
It is a small area, this plaza. On the pavement of Elm Street, there are “X’s” painted in the center of the road. Two of them. One for the shot that wounded both the President and Governor John Connelly. And one for the shot that took from America her Commander-in-Chief. And her innocence.
The day after my visit to the Plaza, I joined some colleagues for dinner. We drove through Dealey Plaza, right on Elm Street.
Right over the spot where the 35th President of the United States was assassinated.
It was entirely pragmatic. We were not tourists. Elm was the shortest route to get to our restaurant. But it felt wrong. Like playing soccer in St. Peter’s Basilica. The area is not sectioned off, bollards guarding the motorcade route against profanation by cars, trucks and buses. It’s a regular thoroughfare, used every day. And yet it is sacred.
Life and death take place in the ordinary and the mundane. This is the rule. What kinds of normal places have you been to that have been made special by either tragic or heroic events?