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Presidential Assassination Museum by Sia Huff

We’ve all seen the pictures, First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy in a beautiful pinksuit and hat, the President, John F. Kennedy, in a gray suit and tie. Both smiled and waved to the crowd-lined streets as the motorcade traveled in front of the Texas School Book Depositary.

Then, two seconds, two bullets, and the world changed. A stoic anchorman shed a tear as citizens from around the world stayed glued to their radios and television sets. The unthinkable had happened, John F. Kennedy was assassinated while hundreds of witnesses looked on, stunned, shocked, saddened. Camelot was over.

I visited the Sixth Floor Depository while in Dallas. Even though I’ve watched several documentaries, the area appeared different than the picture in my mind. Standing on the “Grassy Knoll,” crossing Elm Street and realizing the white X’s painted on the road represented where each bullet struck the President, moving across to Dealey Plaza.From that vantage point, I looked up at the sixth floor and wondered how this could have happened.

The museum owns the fifth floor and seventh floor but not the sixth floor. You walk through at your own pace, taking as much time as you need to absorb the enormity of the events on November 22, 1963. On the fifth floor, a maze of large white-board-style billboards and screens that play short newsreels, take you through the Kennedy presidency. From the election to inauguration to the morning at Love Field, where Air Force One landed.From there the information slows down, becoming more detailed until a minute-by-minute description punches your gut with single sentences. After all this time and understanding the final outcome, dread still lingered in the pit of my stomach.

From there you climb one flight of stairs. The Sixth Floor. A guard greets you and tells you to take your time, but no picture taking allowed. Benches are placed along the perimeter. Yet your eye strays to the corner, the only part of the floor burdened with items in an otherwise open area. There was an eerie weight there, as if the tragedy that happened in this place pressed down. The corner, enclosed in Plexiglas, had book boxes stacked the same way it was found forty-nine years ago this month, a gun propped at the angle to delivered those two fatal shots.

On the seventh floor, you can stand in the corner window and see Elm Street below. See what an assassin saw from one floor above. And wander what if… What if the building was secured? What if Lee Harvey Oswald had missed? What if President Kennedy had lived?

Mary Preston - November 6, 2012 - 3:14 am

What if??

I think this would have given me chills.

Maxine Davis - November 6, 2012 - 3:50 am

That was a very emotional trip. It seemed like I was walking with you. I remember that day so clearly.

Marilyn Baron - November 6, 2012 - 7:30 am

Sia,
Very moving post. I remember where I was at the time, I think all of us do. I’ve been to Dallas a couple of times for conferences and passed the Grassy Knoll area and saw the book depository but didn’t go in there. I didn’t realize there was a museum but it’s not what I expected either. It seemed so mundane compared to the monumental event that happened there. Stephen King wrote a great novel (11-22-63) about a time traveler who went back in time to try to stop the Kennedy assasination. I highly recommend it.

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 8:13 am

Hi Mary,
I understand completely. On the 6th floor, I was drawn to the corner. In my mind, picture a man (Lee Havrey Oswald) bending over that gun, but then I wanted to leave. On the 7th floor I could linger and reflect, but not one floor below.

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 8:18 am

Yes, Maxine, it was emotional. Different generations have that marker: Where we’re you the day President Kennedy was shot? or Where were you on 9-11?
I find it ironic that today, election day, was the day this post ran. I didn’t know I was going to Dallas when I found out this day was my day for November.

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 8:23 am

Thanks, Marilyn. I agree it seems mundance and smaller than you see on T.V. Traffic still uses that corridor. I had to wait for the redlight to take my picture.
I have several Stephen King books on my TBR list. Although I don’t read horror. No, I didn’t know about 11-22-63. When my life slows down. :)

Pam Asberry - November 6, 2012 - 8:42 am

Very sobering post, Sia. That’s a place I don’t think I ever want to visit. Although like you I might like to check out the Stephen King book one of these days. Thanks for sharing.

Debbie Kaufman - November 6, 2012 - 9:34 am

Goosebumps! Boy I remember that day just like anyone who lived through 9/11 will always know where they were.

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 12:52 pm

I understand, Pam. It’s not for everyone. I’m glad I have a better understanding of that time in history.

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 12:58 pm

Wow, Debbie. It does strike an emotional chord. I agree about 9/11. My son, the Marine joined partly because he remembered me watching TV and crying. It affected him many years later.

McCall Hoyle - November 6, 2012 - 5:49 pm

So many “ifs” in our personal stories and in those of our nation…

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 7:47 pm

How true, McCall. Thanks for commenting.

Tami Brothers - November 6, 2012 - 8:08 pm

Wow, Sia! This did give me chills. I actually rode in a horse drawn carriage along the parade route the year that I was pregnant with my son. I honestly didn’t realize the significance of that until the buddy driver told the story. This was our last night in Dallas and I wish that I had thought of visiting the museum before that night. I’m definitely going to have to go back, if only to see what you have so eloquently described.

Thanks for sharing this experience. I will be adding this to my travel wish list.

Tami :film:

Sia Huff - November 6, 2012 - 10:35 pm

Thank you, Tami. A horse drawn carriage sounds lovely, but I wouldn’t want to be in that traffic.
When I asked native Texans what to visit, several recommended the 6th Floor Depository. I love history but didn’t realize what an emotional journey I’d be taking.
Thanks for commenting.

Susan Carlisle - November 7, 2012 - 3:33 pm

What a neat museum to visit. I’ve not heard of it and will put it on my list of places to visit when I go to Dallas again. Tami’s right it does give you chills. Thanks for sharing.

Sia Huff - November 7, 2012 - 4:35 pm

Thanks, Susan. I thinks it’s kind of sad that that’s what Dallas is known for. But, I don’t think we should forget either.
Thanks for commenting.

Carol Burnside - November 7, 2012 - 4:52 pm

I’ve lived in Texas more than any state, but have never visited the 6th Floor Depository. Now I’m bummed I didn’t.

Sia Huff - November 8, 2012 - 11:05 am

Don’t you have family you can visit still in Texas, Carol? If not maybe just go for fun. Then you can play tourist.
Thanks for commenting.

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