Dallas tribute to JFK, 50 years on
Nation pauses to remember fateful day
DALLAS: Dallas observed the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s assassination with its first official memorial as the rest of the nation paused to remember the event that changed history.
At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia where Kennedy is buried, family members laid a wreath at his grave, where Jackie Kennedy and two of their children are also buried.
At dawn, Attorney General Eric Holder made a gravesite visit to honour Kennedy, bowing his head and placing a Justice Department commemorative coin at the stone.
Holder then walked a short path to the grave of Robert F Kennedy, who had served as attorney general under his brother, bowed his head and left another coin.
A late morning ceremony in Dallas, included military jets flying over the city’s Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was shot.
The ceremony started at 11.30am, to coincide with the time that Kennedy’s fatal motorcade passed through packed downtown streets 50 years ago.
Previous anniversaries saw conspiracy theorists who say there was a plot to kill Kennedy take over Dealey Plaza, denouncing the official line that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and fired three shots at Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building.
“His death forever changed our city, as well as the world,” Rawlings said before the anniversary.
“We want to mark this tragic day by remembering a great president with the sense of dignity and history he deserves.”
Dallas was seen as a pariah city for years after the 1963 assassination and avoided any commemoration.
That stigma started to fade decades ago, and now, The Sixth Floor Museum in the former Texas School Book Depository is one of the city’s biggest tourists attractions.
“Dallas came under a great deal of international criticism after the assassination.
“It was called the ‘City of Hate’,” said Stephen Fagin, associate curator The Sixth Floor Museum.
Amid the Cold War para- noia and simmering racial tension of the 1960s, a small but influential group of archconservatives protested against Kennedy’s visit to Texas, saying he was soft on communism and should stay away.
In recent days, the city removed a large “X” embedded into the pavement by an unknown person or people that marked the spot on Elm Street where Kennedy was shot in the head.
The “X” had been seen as tasteless by many while the official observance – a small plaque on the plaza’s noted “grassy knoll” – had been criticised as inadequate.
Thousands of books, news articles, TV shows, movies and documentaries have been produced about that fateful day in Dallas and surveys show most Americans still believe in the conspiracy theories, distrusting evidence pointing to Oswald as the sole killer.
Hugh Ayensworth, a reporter in Dealey Plaza 50 years ago, who witnessed the assassination and also saw Oswald shot dead by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, has spent a lifetime investigating the killings and debunking suspected plots.
“We can’t accept very comfortably that two nobodies, two nothings – Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby – were able to change the course of world history,” he said. – Reuters
PAYING RESPECTS: Clint Hill, a member of the late First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s secret service detail, Mayor Betsy Price, and Congressman Roger Williams place a wreath on the JFK Tribute outside the Hilton Hotel yesterday.
IN MEMORIAM: A banner of President John F Kennedy is pulled into place as crowds gather in Dealey Plaza to mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination.