I have just visited the “Sixth Floor Museum” at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas – the place where President John F Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, just over 50 years ago. It gave me the creeps, I found it very disquieting and I was quite numb after. My friend Bob, the same age as me, could only handle it for a short time and had to leave. Even the mention of the “grassy knoll” disturbed him. But others around us seemed to enjoy it. The sixth floor of the Texas book depository is an iconic place and one of the few places in the world dedicated to a public execution. The sixth floor of Dealey Plaza hasn’t changed much in 50 years and you can see the place where Lee Harvey Oswald took his shots, you can see the crosses on the road where President Kennedy and others were shot and there is all sorts of stuff there including Jack Ruby’s hat!
Why was it so numbing? I, like many, can recall the assassination I was 8 and I can even remember the colour of the radio where the announcement came from. Is this just an old, but very “sticky” memory coming back? Perhaps even a form of mild grief related to a loss of innocence? Or did the voyeuristic feel of the place get me? Was it being amongst people where you could clearly sense/overhear that many didn’t believe the official story being presented? Most Americans, even President Johnson, believe there was another gunman or conspiracy. There is no closure in this place for those who need it. I couldn’t help feeling sadness for Jackie Kennedy and her family and even for Oswald – what happened to his family? And perhaps it was just me but the exhibition just reinforced my age! Overall it felt like a flawed place for communal memory.
To take something from the experience? – perhaps a reminder that “threats hide in hard to find places” – we believe that awareness of this is critical for optimal pain treatment.
I would love to hear from others who have been there or too similar places.
– David Butler