Dealey Plaza is famous for one thing -- the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Everyone who is old enough to remember the event knows exactly where they were when they heard the news. I was in the 6th grade, home sick, and upset about it because I was missing a going-away party for my homeroom teacher who was beginning her maternity leave. I had been watching some game show or other -- at that time, it was all that was on morning weekday TV and watching it was a sick-day treat. So I saw the coverage from the beginning, when the announcer first came on to tell the world that the President had been shot in Dallas, Texas as his motorcade passed through a then-unknown place called Dealey Plaza.
Today, Dealey Plaza looks much the same as it did then. The giant, white, and seemingly purposeless Works Progress Administration walkway still provides a quiet backdrop to the infamous grassy knoll, where a rumored "second gunman" hid behind a fence to its left; the Texas Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald created his 6th floor snipers nest still rises at the curve of road overlooking the motorcade route; and people still line the street, just as they did in November 1963, but now they come not to see a political spectacle, but rather to see two sad "Xs" painted in the street -- the first marks the site of the non-fatal shot to Kennedy's throat, and the second the fatal shot to the head. The photo to the left was taken standing on the "X" marking the fatal shot.
And inside the Book Depository, where photography is not allowed, is the Sixth Floor Museum -- a meandering path of displays that covers "Everything Kennedy." They begin with boyhood photos of Jack and later photos of Jackie sparkling in gowns and tiaras, they move on to politics, the election and inauguration, then flow into the missile crisis and the space race, and end, of course, with the assassination. Diagrams show the path of the motorcade through the Plaza or the path of the "magic" bullet through both John Connolly and Kennedy. Story boards outline the life and death of Oswald, trying to explain his motivation for the assassination, and why some feel he was not a good enough shot to do it all by himself. At the end, videos discuss the Warren report, which found that Oswald acted alone, and mention more modern acoustical evidence that "may" show there really was a second shooter in the grassy knoll.
But at the far corner in the Sixth Floor Museum is the spot that everyone really came to see, where a Plexiglas cube protects the corner window from being disturbed. Inside the cube, boxes are stacked in a seemingly random fashion, originally there both to conceal Lee Harvey Oswald and to provide a solid rest for his rifle. You can't go into the cube, but you can look out the window next to it. And what you immediately see is not the buildings of Dallas, or the traffic below, or even the green of the grassy knoll -- what you see are those two sad "Xs" painted in the street, and you can't help but wonder just how good a shot one would have to be to hit those targets.