1000s honor John F Kennedy in solemn ceremony at Dealey Plaza Dallas, TX
Navy choir. The moment of reflection came midway through solemn, 44-minute ceremony only steps from the site of the assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. “He was ambitious to make it a better world — and so were we,” historian David McCullough said before reading excerpts from Kennedy speeches.
“He spoke to to the point and with confidence,” McCullough said. “He knew words matter. His words changed lives. His words changed history.
And rarely has a commander in chief addressed the nation with such command of language.” The weather — cold with a light, freezing drizzle — was in stark contrast to that Friday in 1963, which started cloudy but broke into bright sunshine by midmorning, prompting the presidential motorcade to remove the clear-bubble protection atop the limousines.
Creating a silent backdrop to the ceremony was the red-brick building that once housed the Texas School Book Depository, where, according to the Warren Commission, Lee Harvey Oswald fired the rifle shot from a six-story window that killed the 46-year-old president. Friday’s event was by invitation only, and some lucky 5,000 guests were selected in a lottery system.
Some arrived as early as 6 a.m. CT. Samuel and Tammy Ramon of Fort Worth applied in June and were thrilled when they were selected. Though he was only 1 year old when Kennedy was shot, Samuel Ramon said being part of the 50th anniversary is something he’ll someday tell his grandchildren and great-grandchildren about. “He was a great president,” said Samuel Ramon, bracing against the cold as he entered through security.
“It makes me want to see where everything happened.” The ceremony began at 12:10 p.m. CT with a procession by a six-member bagpipes and drums band, followed by the national anthem by Monica Saldivar.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who opened the ceremony, recalled the nightmare that took place “in our front yard.” “It seems we all grew up that day, city and citizens, and suddenly, we had to step up and try to live up to the envisions of our beloved president,” he said. Roy Widley, 67, of the Dallas suburb of Richardson, said he hoped the ceremony would, once and for all, distance Dallas from the tragic killing.