My first morning in Dallas I knew there was one thing I absolutely could not miss before I left Texas: visiting the Sixth Floor Museum, the former book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald made the fatal shots that killed President Kennedy.
You know, it’s one thing to accept as fact that a tragic event in history occurred. You know it happened, you know it’s a part of history, and mentally, you accept that.
It’s quite another to actually BE at the spot where it all happened. Then it becomes REAL to you. Suddenly it’s not an image on TV, or words in a book anymore. Now it’s the air you’re breathing.
I stood at the former book depository (now an administrative building and museum) and just stared in wonderment. This was the site and building that would spawn a million conspiracy theories, books and films. It all began here.
Inside the museum were several floors of exhibits, and I have to say, it was spectacularly done. It remained as impartial as you could ever ask for, neither deifying President Kennedy nor disrespecting the man, and even carefully laid out the most common conspiracy theories surrounding his assassination, not really debunking them so much as merely explaining them, and letting the reader decide himself how true or not they might be.
Cameras were not allowed, and it was a rule strictly enforced too. I didn’t dare take out my iPhone for fear that one of the burly looking security guards would come and hurt me bad. So I just walked around and took it all in. Incredibly enough, the sixth floor was specifically preserved according to how it may have looked at the time Oswald made the shot. Even the boxes as they appeared to be used for sighting his rifle were perfectly placed in the corner window, with that section encased in glass. I was merely feet away from where the rifle was fired, and you could look out the window and see exactly what Oswald saw. It was eery.
There was a seventh floor (which is actually the top floor in the building) as well, this one dedicated to the “man in that hat.” An old footage of Dan Rather plays somewhere in the background while incredibly enough, the VERY hat Jack Ruby wore on the day he shot Lee Harvey Oswald is on display in a glassed exhibit. I don’t mean a replica either, IT WAS THE SAME HAT. Once owned by private collectors, it was now a part of the museum’s few but incredible exhibits.
After I finished my tour, I walked outside and took in the surroundings and then noticed a familiar spot: the grassy knoll. I raced to it and looked around the bushes to see if I could find the cigarette butts left by the Smoking Man, the man who REALLY shot Kennedy (X-Files fans will know what I mean.)
Speaking of X, the road on which Kennedy suffered his awful fate had 2 X’s marked on it, one marking the first time Kennedy was hit, and the second marking the fatal shot, where two more bullets were fired (some believe there may have been a fourth as well.) It was a busy highway kept in check by only one nearby traffic light, so I quickly ran to the spot to take a few pics.
I looked up towards the building and my heart seized as I realized I was looking right at the window where the shot was fired, standing on the very same spot when Kennedy was first hit. And suddenly, it all became very real.
I ran back to the sidewalk before getting mowed down by traffic, then walked over to the Dealey Plaza park. According to the inscriptions found here, this was basically where Dallas began, as the small park marked the spot where the very first home was built. I looked over at the depository once more, hearing echos of the cheers that would erupt as the presidential motorcade drove by. Seeing a figure in a window.
Seeing history, for the first time.