Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Sixth Floor

July 23
Most of our touristy stops have ben fun and exciting or fun and educational. This particular stop is surely educational and enlightening... but it is somber. We are visiting the Texas School Book Depository. It is a spare old brick building, seven stories high, near an intersection of highways and across from a well-groomed green grassy knoll.

The sixth and seventh floors are now museums: the sixth floor, a display and analysis of the events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the seventh a tribute to Robert Jackson, the photographer who captured a number of memorable American moments, including the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, President Kennedy's alleged assassin, by Jack Ruby.

It's a bit difficult to be here on the sixth floor, and to see the corner window where Oswald purportedly had brought a rifle, concealed by a long brown paper bag; positioned the rifle atop cardboard schoolbook boxes to steady it; pulled the trigger; and murdered the young President who was so full of promise -- a shot that was truly heard around the world.

Chronicling this event at the the time, and analyzing it for years to come, was the iconic news reporter Walter Cronkite. Tis week, we mourn his passing, at age 92. Watching replays of his news footage in 1963 (in the aftermath of the assassination) and in the late 1980s (after the investigative commissions had concluded their work), we are impressed once again with the depth and humanity of Cronkite's reporting, the avuncular help he gave his audience in making sense of the event, its antecedents, and the dramatic events that came in its aftermath.

Having been to the JFK library in Boston at the beginning of our summer travels, Garry and I found it fitting to view this Dallas-eye focus as we continue our great American odyssey.

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