When I was a teen there was a mini series called ‘The Trail of Lee Harvey Oswald’ Movie 1977 and it was promoted in a Sunday Times Magazine and I think that fuelled my fascination for JFK, Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald and all the conspiracy theories that ensued. Visiting Dallas was on my Bucket List but I didn’t realise the impact of actually standing in Dealey Plaza would have on me.
Travelling solo I arrived at Dallas Fort Worth Airport later than scheduled because of Homeland Security in Houston. My flight was missed because it took over two and half hours to get as far as customs. The connection time should have been ample but as there were only 3 desks out of 43 were manned and no amount of pleading with staff about missing connecting flights would get you further up the line.
The hotel I was staying in was at the airport so I decided on getting to the hotel by shuttle and collected the hire car in the morning.
Dallas airport is massive and is 7 miles from end to end. The landscape is flat, really flat which surprised me. I found driving around the area even with the aid of Tom Tom really hard and often missed turnings. This trip was going to be different as I was only based at the one hotel, in one State.
I did my research and travelled into Dallas Union Station on the Trinity Railway in Wi-Fi enabled comfort in a double decker train. The route the train took went right passed Parkland Hospital where JFK was pronounced dead on that fateful day. I disembarked the train and walked into Union station at 09.00, it was empty. The Dallas Morning Post building is just outside the station and stepping out into the city there was nobody around. This was rush hour and it was empty!
Pioneer Plaza was what I wanted to see first and was astonished to see the scale of the statues of cattle and cowboys in the square. Bronze statues of Texas Longhorn Cattle to commemorate 19th Century cattle drives along the Shawnee Trail start at the top of the man made ridge and meanders down to a stream. Each of the cattle is oversized and it is the largest bronze statue in the world.
I walked towards Dealey Plaza along Elm Street and my pace definitely quickened as I got closer to the Old School Book Depository building. There it was, Dealey Plaza, Elm Street, the 6th Floor Museum with the window permanently open showing where Lee Harvey Oswald changed the course of history forever. I had never had a feeling like the one I experienced on that day.
I was quivering all over with anticipation and the exhilaration of actually seeing all the documentaries, conspiracy programmes and books in the flesh and for Abraham Zapruder was filming the visit of JFK to Dallas, forever immortalised and examined frame by frame endlessly for answers to what happened.
I would recommend highly visiting the 6th Floor Museum it is busy and some patience is required to navigate yourself around. 6th Floor Museum
Tip: You cannot get up close to the 6th Floor Window as it is closed in by Perspex panelling but you can get up to the 7th Floor to look out of the corresponding window to look down on Elm Street.
Everyone is issued an iPhone that has an audio guide and living history contributions from people who were there on the day. There are many artifacts on display as well as suits and hats of some of the detectives that you would recognise from the black & white images. The actual rifle that Oswald used is locked away in the National Archive so there is a replica to see. If you listen in on conversations the incident that lasted seconds in 1963 is re-enacted over and over again with many different views and comments as to what actually happened.
Beware of the hawkers selling maps, newspapers and other tat. I guess I spent 2 and a half hours exploring the plaza and taking pictures. After that I went the JFK memorial a block away from Dealey Plaza. It wasn’t what I expected and only for the plaques on the pavement it just seemed out of place.
Dallas has a free bus route called ‘D-Link’ and it travels through the busier part of Dallas and through different neighbourhoods. I took the bus to go to the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff, where Lee Harvey Oswald snuck into in his apparent escape from the sniper’s lair and later arrested at. I wanted to see the memorial to the murdered policeman J.D Tippet, it was close by but it was very seedy down there so I took a couple of photos and got right back on the bus.
Sometimes you just have to be aware of your surroundings and your personal safety and on this occasion I felt too touristy if you know what I mean.
The following day I drove into Fort Worth to see the memorial outside of the Hilton Hotel where the President and First Lady spent their last night together. The statue and memorial are very tasteful and is a must do inclusion on any visit to Fort Worth.
So I had done it! Ticked Dallas and JFK on my bucket list.
26 October 2017: Trump allows release of previously unseen documents about the events on 22 November 1963. So the intrigue continues!