Friday, November 22, 1963 was a school day for the Dallas school district but my recollection is that our school had allowed students to miss school to view the presidential motorcade. I made plans to view the president with my friend, Phillip Jenkins. We were sophomores and didn’t drive so his mother volunteered to drive us to a park about midway along the route where we hoped to have an unobstructed view.
Phillip’s father, Pepper, would not attend as he was at work at Parkland hospital, where he was an anesthesiologist.
I remember being surprised by the crowds lining the motorcade route. In some places there were already people standing three or four deep along the road. I hadn’t realized what a big deal JFK’s visit was though I was very excited to see him myself. I had been influenced by my father, a life-long Texas Democrat who during each election cycle festooned our house and car with painted banners and signs promoting the Democratic candidate. Kennedy had been a family favorite of near mythical status. So we waited at a park near the intersection of Lemon Ave. and Oak Lawn Ave.
The passing of the motorcade was little more than a blur but we did get a glimpse of the President and Jackie. And just like that, it was over. At least we had the rest of the school day off. So, we went back to Phillip’s house to have lunch and goof around.
I remember sitting in Phillip’s room an hour or so later talking when the phone rang. A few minutes later Mrs. Jenkins came to the room and with what was almost a grimace on her face said, “Phillip, that was your dad. The president has been shot and they are bringing him to Parkland. He’s prepping for surgery. He’ll call us when he can.”
We turned on the radio and followed local reports for a while. too innocent and shocked by the suddenness of the events to fully understand but immediately aware of the fact that something very grave had happened . Somehow we knew that something in the country had changed. Mrs. Jenkins drove me home . I remember running to the door of our house thinking I would break the bad news and walked into the living room where the whole family sat around the TV in total silence.
It seems that we sat that way for several days, wishing not to disrespect our slain hero by abandoning our vigil. Eventually, we would waver and watch less of what seemed endless rehashing of the facts. Life returned to a somewhat more normal routine. Though for years we were reminded of the events of that brilliantly, sunny, November day in Dallas by the talk of conspiracies.
For many years after, I would hear Pepper Jenkins’ name in connection with the investigation by the Warren Commission . I have never been able to watch all of the footage of the Zapruder film, though several times I went to Dealey Plaza and stood where Abe Zapruder stood.
Tonight as i watched programs commemorating JFK’s death, I had to turn away before the magic bullet found it’s mark.