MIDNIGHT IN DEALEY PLAZA
Ever stood on the Grassy Knoll at midnight? Only the truly brave dare. But there’s no reason to fear (despite all you hear about Elm Street, it’s perfectly safe to walk, even at that late hour). Actually, you might find it a perfect moment to visit the Scene of the Crime and do a bit of quiet reflecting.
At midnight, Dealey Plaza is silent, almost strangely serene but for the occasional car whizzing by en route to Stemmons Freeway. The old School Book Depository (now the 6th Floor Museum, as it’s called) building sits dark. The tourists, museum visitors, downtown businessmen and County office workers who keep this public park a bustling beehive of activity won’t be along for a few more hours yet. No street vendors or conspiracy buffs to disturb your thoughts, sell you something, or try to engage you in a debate about Who Shot John.
No – at midnight in Dealey Plaza, it’s just you, the night, the place, the memories, and God.
In the stillness, you can’t help but wonder why someone picked such a beautiful spot to do such an ugly thing. How could anyone want to destroy a nation’s highest hopes and dreams in a lush and lovely green tree-lined square, surrounded by Art Deco edifices, statues and a historic marker which informs all who come here that on this very spot, the city of Dallas was founded. This bluff selected because of its’ exquisite natural beauty.
And you wonder why more people don’t seem to care. The average Dallas citizen drives though this plaza several times a week, if not every day. They’ve passed over the “X” marking the spot where JFK lost his life so many times in their normal daily commute, most of them honestly don’t even realize or notice anymore. They just walk or drive on by; going about their lives with nary a thought as to how many tears have watered the ground beneath their feet.
Looking around, you’d never know this place is one of the most historic killing zones in American history. The locals enjoy concerts and events here; families gather on Sunday afternoons; downtown dwellers walk their dogs around, and occasionally you’ll even see some young office boy trying to impress an attractive coworker with a picnic lunch. (Strange place for a date, one can’t help but think…)
TRANSFORMING TRAGEDY INTO HOPE
I just returned from a weekend in Dallas, and can only write of this experience because I had it myself. As it turned out, the hotel my employer had arranged was located two blocks from Dealey Plaza and to make matters even a bit stranger still, my window overlooked the Plaza with a Bird’s Eye View of History. That in itself was enough to give me the creeps.
They say you should always do the things you are afraid of, and then you won’t be afraid anymore. Although I’ve visited Dealey Plaza many times through the years during daytime hours, I always wondered if I had the guts to try it at midnight. All by myself. Alone. Somehow, I summoned the courage and am glad I did. The moments of insight I experienced there at such a quiet hour could never be equalled during the hustle-bustle of day.
Not that it wasn’t a little strange, mind you. Imagine strolling through a Civil War battlefield or walking around Pearl Harbor late at night. Imagine sitting in Lincoln’s box at the Ford Theatre after hours. An experience not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who is afeard of ghosts.
On this warm, breezy, moonless early June night, my thoughts turned to President Kennedy’s life, even while I sat here in the place where he died. In those quiet moments of reflection I thought that this November will mark 45 years since that awful day in Dallas, and what have we done since then?
This is not the world JFK envisioned for future generations. In those solitary moments of meditation, I felt the urgency of Robert Kennedy’s efforts; how hard he worked to bring about more enlightened world, and recalled that he too was prevented from that goal by an assassin’s bullet exactly 40 years ago this weekend.
On the 40th anniversary of his father’s murder and being in the place where President Kennedy was assassinated nearly a half-century ago only stressed to me the central point of why this generation must continue their work.
Because people are starting to forget…what the Kennedys lived, fought and died for…and we can’t let that happen.
Some say that the Kennedys are already forgotten relics of an earlier age; that they hold no real power in American politics anymore – and perhaps in some circles that’s true. But just ask those college kids (and younger) at a Barack Obama rally why they’re “fired up” and “ready to go!” – they’ll tell `ya “because Barack is the black JFK!” – and you begin to hope anew again.