Monday, November 14, 2011

Totally Texas -- Shots still echoing

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
411 Elm Street, Dallas

It was a journalist’s nightmare in the pre-mobile era of 1963 -- an incredible, unexpected story and no way to call it in. Pierce Allman and his co-worker Terrance Ford from local TV station WFAA were among those gathered in downtown Dallas to watch the car carrying President John F. Kennedy, then-Texas governor John Connally, and their wives when shots rang out.

Although they were only two blocks from WFAA (Channel 8), Allman remembered running into the adjacent Texas School Book Depository in search of a phone to call the station. He passed a nondescript-looking young man coming out of the building and apparently thought little of the chance encounter at the time. The young man was later identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, generally believed to be the assassin of President Kennedy.

And the unprepossessing, early twentieth-century brick warehouse where Oswald worked found a place in history when the rifle identified as the one that killed the president was found near a window on its sixth floor.

Almost unbelievably, the building continued to operate as a warehouse for school textbooks until 1970. The Sixth Floor Museum housing exhibits related to the Kennedy assassination opened in 1989 in space leased from the building’s current owner, Dallas County.

The museum is immediately adjacent to Dealey Plaza, the most visited landmark in Dallas. From the plaza, visitors can see the “grassy knoll,” believed by some to be the hiding place for a second gunman in the assassination and later covered with flowers by thousands mourning the president’s death.

The museum’s exhibits include an audio tour narrated by Pierce Allman, who recounts his brush with Oswald, and guides visitors through a vast collection of artifacts detailing the history of Kennedy’s brief presidency, his assassination and its aftermath.

The assassination is one of the events that those who of us alive at the time mark our lives by. I was a sixth grade student in a small town one hundred fifty miles away when a school administrator walked into the classroom full of us eleven and twelve-year-olds to tell us what had happened. We didn’t know how to react. As I sat recently through one of the museum’s short films about the assassination, I wept.

The museum open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and noon until 6 p.m. on Monday. Admission is $13.50 for adults, which includes the audio tour. There is a parking lot adjacent to the building, or do what I did -- get off at the Dallas Rapid Transit (DART) West End station and walk about four blocks west. See or call 214-747-6660 for additional information. 

1 comment:

  1. Dallas has been my home all my life. I was here for this and remember, as word spread through the school, our teacher wanted to watch the news as it broke. She rolled a TV into the classroom. There was absolute silence. At home, we were glued to newscasts. That was when I decided I wanted to be a reporter.
    A friend of ours was the on-duty clergy at Parkland when Kennedy arrived. He found it very hard to talk about. We Dallasites were as stunned and sorrowful as the rest of the nation.
    For years afterward, Dallasites were ridiculed. I try to forget about all this, but just can't, especially when driving under the triple underpass. Today, as part of Friendship Force, I find that whenever we have visitors from Ottawa to Germany, they want to see the grassy knoll and the Schoolbook Depository. And, I tell them, yes, I lived in Dallas.