He smiled and waved. Three days later, his son stood at attention and saluted. If you’re even a few years over 50, then the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy forever remains etched in your memory…
Dallas Texas. Friday, November 22, 1963. 2PM. Twenty-six-point six seconds. Abraham Zapruder. Mary Ann Moorman. Rabbi Levi Olan. Jacob Rubinstein aka Jack Ruby. One place, One date, One moment in time. Connected by people who didn’t know each other. All part of one unforgettable event when the clock stopped and the world watched in shock.
This month, this year, there are, and will be, many opportunities to reflect on that tragic period in history. Where you were when you heard the news? How did the events of those four days in November and the memories of a President and his beautiful family impact you? One thing is certain. You can never forget…
Fifty years ago I remember being in a classroom when our African-American teacher came in with tears in his eyes to say the President had been shot. The class was being dismissed early. I can still picture like it was yesterday standing outside the school, crowded around a car with other students as we listened to the static sound of an AM car radio reporting the horrific events taking place in Dallas….
Barely three years earlier, I remember standing outside Radio City Music Hall when then-Senator John F. Kennedy was campaigning for the Presidency in 1960. There wasn’t a big crowd around me as his small motorcade quickly passed by. From his open car, I felt like he was waving to me, as I waved back….
Fifty three years after 1960, seven blocks south of the Music Hall, I am in New York City’s International Center of Photography at 1133 Avenue of the
Americas on 43rd Street. A small but hugely emotional exhibition captures how some bystanders viewed the history of the four days that began just before 2PM Eastern Standard Time on Friday November 22, 1963…
While Dallas will forever be branded with the mark of the Kennedy assassination, the exhibition focuses on some of the people who were there on that day.
Abraham Zapruder was a Dallas dress manufacturer who, with his 8mm Bell & Howell camera, took what could be the most important documentary motion picture ever shot. Twenty-six point six seconds of film footage, said to be the only film that captured the historic moment. Frames from the Zapruder film are displayed in the exhibition but one frame notedly stood out. It was the blurry scene of a woman later identified as Mary Ann Moorman taking a Polaroid picture of JFK a split second after he was shot. Half a century later, that woman tells her story in a short but powerful documentary that the the ICP is showcasing. In the exhibit which is on view through January 19th, you can also see the full front page of the New York Times with the story of the man the Times identifies at Jacob Rubinstein (aka Jack Ruby) the day after he shot and killed Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
For 50 years, the city and the people of Dallas have had to endure the pain of their association. The Dallas Morning News reported the story of how a Dallas Rabbi at the time helped his congregants deal with and reflect upon the tragedy. Elizabeth Hirsch was 27 when she stood and watched the motorcade with the President pass by her that day just before he was shot. That evening she was at a packed Friday evening Shabbat services at Dallas’ Temple Emanu-El. Her father Rabbi Levi Olan was the temple’s spiritual leader. Newspaper writer Leslie Minora reported that Rabbi Olan didn’t go easy on the city and people but he went out of his way to help his congregation reflect and take positive action. His sermons and regular radio programs on Dallas station KRLD included a sermon-broadcast titled “What Should Dallas Do Now?” His commanding voice helped define Rabbi Olan as a master storyteller; he was referred to as a Rabbinical Walter Cronkite.
Decades before Twitter, the Internet and the multitude of news and media choices that surround our lives today, the black and white news that began in the afternoon of November 22, 1963 was a riveting, unforgettable, catastrophic cacophony of visual numbness. On the 50th anniversary this year, even if you are too young to have been part of that momentous horrific historic moment, please pause to remember, and salute a day when something real bad happened to a really good person.