December 1st, 2011 Heather Kovar
BY: Achilles (Archie) R. Schiano
It was 48 years ago on Nov. 22 when our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas. I recently visited Dealey Plaza and retraced the last few blocks of the motorcade route when the fatal shots were fired from the Sixth Floor of the Texas School Book depository.
Statue of George B. Dealey, well-known Dallas newspaperman.
The Warren Commission concluded that a lone gunman–Lee Harvey Oswald–fired three rifle shots from the SE (far corner) window of the Book Depository. Numerous conspiracy theories immediately popped up and continue to this day. Very affable volunteers of sorts, including at least one man who said he was there at the age of 13, either hawk a well-written souvenir journal for $5, or graciously accept a small gratuity as they point out key areas to visitors, while airing those theories.
JFK’s motorcade came down Main St., flanked by cycle cops and Secret Service personnel. Crowds cheered as the president’s limo passed Griffin, then Lamar, Austin and crossed Market Street. This put the motorcade just minutes from Oswald. At Main and Houston St. was the majestic Red Courthouse with its great tower. Houston St. today is a one-way street, taking traffic away from Elm St. where the Depository building stands. But in 1963 Houston was a two-way street. The plan was to make a right turn off Main into Houston, drive the short distance to Elm, make a sharp left turn in front of the Depository and head down towards the Stemmons Freeway.
The motorcade headed towards the freeway. Guesstimating a distance of maybe 150 yards or so, three shots came from that sixth floor corner window of the Depository. The shots came from behind and I suppose gave the shooter a better target since Vice-President John B. Connally sat in front of JFK, both of the right or sidewalk side. Their wives sat next to them to their left. The president was declared dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Oswald was captured and, soon afterward was shot dead in Dallas Police HQ by Jack Ruby, a lowlife who later died in prison from cancer.
Did Oswald act alone? Were there other shooters at the infamous “Grassy Knoll” behind the picket fence? Was a shooter concealed in a small sewer along the curb when the motorcade rolled by?
A special House panel years later said scientific acoustical evidence established “a high probability that two gunmen” were involved, but discounted involvement by groups touted by conspiratorists.
Just before approaching car, a sewer can be seen under the curb. It’s small but the claim is made that a shooter could have waited there and then escape through a drain.
Today, the Depository houses the Sixth Floor Museum. Many exhibits and film clips outline JFK’s presidency. Poignant memories come back when his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech is replayed. But eventually a visitor gets to the windows facing Dealey and can look down at the roadway where tragedy struck. The window where Oswald lay in wait ”the spider’s nest,” is protected behind glass. Photography is not allowed. In a book of remembrances, I write something like, ’God help us, Never again.’ An historic, but very somber experience. —Achilles (Archie) R. Schiano
(Hundreds of books have been written about Nov. 22, 1963. One good website to check is the National Archives operated by George Washington University and listed on the New York Press Club’s web. Another good one is www.JFK.org where you can read up on the Sixth Floor Museum as well as keep up to date on current lectures. A webcam from the Spider’s Nest overlooking Dealey Plaza is available HERE.