This month marks the fiftieth anniversary since that fateful day in Dallas when John F. Kennedy was brutally gunned down in broad daylight. A day that etched so much into the public’s lexicon…. grassy knoll, Texas School Book Depository, “back and to the left” and of course the Zapruder footage. Drop any one of these into a sentence and everyone knows what you’re talking about. And yet, fifty years later, the conspiracy theories and obsession with the assassination has not waned. If anything, since 9/11, suspicions have increased.
I too have fallen victim to fascination with those events, even simply about the very place where history unfolded. Dealey Plaza remains pretty much unchanged, almost a living time- capsule to November 22, 1963, and so it should. It is fascinating to walk around, stand on the same spot seen all around the world, and try to put yourself in the shoes of those standing there that day. What thoughts must have been going through there minds from one moment to the other? And then, glance around, perhaps to that grassy knoll, and ask yourself, who was standing there, if anyone, and what exactly did happen?
On my first trip around the US, traveling like any good European, and not a single American, i chose to travel by train, which was a great way to see the country, if not a little laborious at times. However, on the slow pull into Dallas, late at night, i was fascinated to keep an eye out for anything recognizable, particularly Dealey Plaza. I’d known that the famed grassy knoll backed onto some rail yards, so i wondered if i might travel near by. Not a moment after having that thought, i seemed to cross over a strangely familiar underpass, that was in fact Elm Street. Dealey Plaza was right there in front of me….the single most dramatic and tragic location of American, if not world history in the last century or so! It was a breathtaking discovery. I knew from past stops the train would wait for about ten minutes or so at the station, so as we crawled to a halt not more than a couple of hundred yards later, i seized my opportunity (of course i wasn’t to know i’d again be in Dallas years later to shoot Tony Romo, quarterback of the Cowboys!). Anyway, so i jumped off the train, into the balmy Texas night air, ran down the street, guessed a left, followed by another left, and soon found myself in the same spot where the mysterious ‘umbrella man’ put up his brolly, just before the first shots rang out. JFK…. may he rest in peace.
One of the most outspoken conspiracy theorists, filmmaker Oliver Stone, is taking the opportunity to look back by releasing a collector’s edition of ‘JFK’ on November 12th. The box set includes a director’s cut, a Kennedy-themed portion of Stone’s Showtime documentary The Untold History of the United States and another full-length documentary on the assassination. In addition, Stone and Warner Bros. are re-releasing JFK in New York, Los Angeles and Washington from November 8th through the 14th.