It’s a hot Dallas afternoon and I’m staring out a southeast corner window inside the former Texas School Book Depository building. Sixty feet down and roughly a hundred and fifty feet away, white Xs painted in the middle of Elm Street mark the spots where two 6.5 millimeter rifle bullets ended John F. Kennedy’s life almost forty–five years ago. A surreal feeling washes over me. I’ve seen this place thousands of times on television and in books, but now I’m here for real. What’s so remarkable is how unrememarkable Dealey Plaza really is. It looks like any other patch of Public Works maintained asphalt and grass you’d find in any American city. And yet, this is the site of a national trauma as vividly remembered as Pearl Harbor or September 11th. A chill runs down my spine. I’m standing on sacred ground.
“So,” my friend Lana says, “You think Oswald acted alone?”
“Who knows?” I reply. “But being here and actually seeing the distances involved? He certainly could have done it by himself.”
“I’ve shot a rifle a few times. It’s doable.”
“You don’t think there was a conspiracy?”
“Maybe there was,” I reply, looking back down at Elm Street. “But it was forty-five years ago. Plenty of time for secrets to have worked their way to the surface.”
“I don’t know,” Lana says. “I think Oswald had help.”
“Maybe he did.”
We silently gaze down on the tourists poking around the grassy knoll next to the large memorial dedicated to George Bannerman Dealey, the civic booster for whom the plaza is named. I poked around the infamous spot before we entered the Sixth Floor Museum. Staring over the slight wooden fence, I imagined I was an assassin drawing a bead on the motorists coasting past. If I was deranged and armed with high powered rifle, they’d be chopped meat. Maybe Lana and the conspiracy theorists are right. Maybe they’re not.
“Well,” I say, breaking the silence, “Now I can say I’ve been to every spot where an American President has been assassinated.”
“All of them?”
“Yep,” Washington D.C., Buffalo, New York, and now Dallas, Texas.”
“I keep forgetting your Dad was a history teacher.”
“He made sure my brother and I saw all those places,” I reply. “But Texas was too far of a drive cooped up inside the family car.”
“I can’t imagine you and your brother sharing a car for that long now,” Lana says. “Much less than when you were little.”
“Ugh,” I reply. “If we took that long of a trip when we were kids, it’d be Armageddon.”
“Your poor parents.”
“They survived,” I say, looking at my watch. “Listen, all this weight of history stuff is making me hungry. How about some lunch?”
Lana and I exit the museum and reenter the baking Dallas atmosphere. We walk past several dining establishments on Market Street before settling on a New Orleans’s style seafood restaurant named Landry’s. Inside, the dimly lit dining room is cool and the service attentive and friendly. I order the Ahi tuna tempura roll with soy ginger butter and wasabi cream served on top of Thai coleslaw. I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m not a food critic, but my tuna dish is as good as any as I’ve had in New York City. Lana enjoys her shrimp salad as well. After a drinking several Coronas and taking a pass on the excellent looking Key Lime Pie, we pay the bill and get up to head home.
“I need to use ladies room before getting in the car,” Lana says.
“Okay,” I reply. “I’ll wait for you outside.”
Luckily Landry’s has a nice outdoor waterfall near its front entrance. I park myself near its cooling mist and watch the pedestrian traffic stroll by. It must be change of shift at Landry’s because several waiters clad in long sleeve white shirts, ties, and heavy looking black aprons emerge from the restaurant to go on their pre-shift cigarette, candy, and food runs. Ah, waiters are the same everywhere.
When Lana returns from the bathroom we retrieve our car and head towards our next destination. With a start I realize we’re driving though Dealey Plaza. As we coast over the white Xs painted in the middle of Elm Street, I crane my neck and look back up at the School Book Depository’s infamous corner window. The innocuous panes of glass peer back at me like the mute and evil eyes of history. A chill runs down my spine.
Then we drive under the triple overpass and it’s gone.