Iwas in Dallas last weekend. Although the assassination of John F. Kennedy had a profound effect on most people of my generation, it was almost an afterthought that I ventured to Dealey Plaza, the site where he and a number of bullets collided. It sure looks a lot different in color than it did in black and white that 22nd day of November in 1963.
I was 9 years old, nearly 10. Even at that age, we all knew it was a scary time—and that was before the assassination. The Russians had missiles pointed at us from Cuba. The South was a race riot a minute. Older brothers were heading off to some place called Vietnam. And the music was very, very bad.
Lots of people hated Kennedy—not mild despise or reckless jealousy, they truly hated him. They hated him so much that even on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, a full-page ad appeared in a Dallas newspaper all but proclaiming Kennedy a marked man. Kennedy knew that. He told one reporter that morning that if one wanted to kill the president, all one needed was a tall building and a telescopic rifle.
The tall building turned out to be not so tall, just tall enough. When I first saw the Texas Book Depository Building in 1963 it looked like a skyscraper, but then again I come from Bingham Canyon, where no building was truly tall. Still, as I walked about Dealey Plaza I was amazed at how small everything was. The “grassy knoll” where conspiracy theorists place a second gunman is barely a few feet high and only a few yards from the highway. The sixth floor window from where Lee Harvey Oswald took his shots through or over trees is not so threatening at all. The plaza cannot even qualify as a mini-park.
On the road, which to my surprise slants downhill, an X marks the spot where Kennedy took that fatal bullet to the head. In just an hour, almost the entire world was crying. In the museum now housed on the sixth floor, I later sat and cried a bit again as all those old memories were stirred in photos and videos.
That was such a sad time—innocence lost, but idealism fueled. Reminded of how we were and how we dreamed, I thought it impossible that the best of our generation could be represented by Al Gore and George W. Bush. So, on the morning of Nov. 7, I put my own X where I thought it would do the most good, and voted for Ralph Nader. It was the least I could do.