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A Familiar Name, A Familiar Place, and a Feeling of Sadness

By Mark D. Roberts | Monday, March 23, 2009

On Saturday I put up a picture of the Dallas Morning News building in Dallas, Texas, focusing on the inspiring inscription on the front wall. I explained that this statement was adapted from a speech by George Dealey, who had been a leader of the newspaper a century ago.

The name, “Dealey,” seemed strangely familiar to me. (It’s pronounced DEE-lee. And for some strange reason I knew this.) I did a little research and realized why I knew that name. Not far from my hotel is Dealey Plaza. This is where President Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963.  In history books, news stories, and television specials, I’ve probably been exposed to the name “Dealey Plaza” hundreds of times. (Photo: Dealey Plaza in the foreground; the Hyatt Regency in the background. At the top of the tower to the left is a new Wolfgang Puck’s Five-Sixty restaurant, where I did not eat.)

I do feel rather bad for Mr. Dealey, whose name is now associated with one of the great tragedies in American history. Nevertheless, I walked over to Dealey Plaza from my hotel. Sure enough, there was the infamous Texas School Book Depository Building, from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot the President. (It’s now a Dallas County Administration Building.) Not far from this building was the legendary “Grassy Knoll,” the location of the Oswald’s supposed co-conspirator. (Photo: The former Book Depository on the right; the Grassy Knoll to the left. The President was shot while riding in a car on the road, in just about the middle of the picture.)

Dealey Plaza felt strangely familiar, no doubt from all of the footage I’ve watched for so many years. Yet, while standing there, I felt sadness more than familiarity or curiosity. I felt sad about what happened one day so many years ago. I felt sad for our country. I felt sad for President Kennedy’s family. (During one of my college years, I was in a dorm with Caroline Kennedy. I didn’t know her, other than to say “hello.” But I remember watching her on November 22 and wondering what that day was like for her.) I felt sad for the fallen nature of humanity, for all of the terrible things we do to each other. It was a feeling not unlike what I’ve known when visiting famous battlefields or graveyards, or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. Perhaps you know what I mean. It’s one thing to watch a place of tragedy on television, and quite another to stand in that place. Being there makes the reality of human suffering and evil so much more genuine and painful.

Topics: Texas |

4 Responses to “A Familiar Name, A Familiar Place, and a Feeling of Sadness”

  1. Bill Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 5:00 am

    That must have been a moving experience. Does anyone who was alive then, not remember where they were when Kennedy was shot. I was in a 6th grade classroom in a Catholic Elementary School. Of course, all of us had been most excited about having a young, intelligent, and stylish Catholic as President. The feeling of loss that day for the country was palpable. Now, of course, the memories of JFK are mingled with other things. With now disrespect meant to his memory, I have sometimes wondered not so much how his children dealt with his death, but with the ongoing revelations about his life. Such a tragedy in so many ways. However, one book I read had a juxtaposition of pictures which was like something out of Ecclesiastes. On the left side of the page was a picture of Kennedy waving to the crowd from the limousine. On the right was a picture of him laying on his back on the autopsy table. One moment, a young rich and attractive multi-millionaire in the most powerful political position in the world. The next moment he was gone from his physical body and standing before God.

  2. Mark Roberts Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Bill: Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  3. Bill Goff Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I was in Dallas last month at the old Magnolia Hotel from where I walked about ten minutes to Dealey Plaza. I visited the museum on the top floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building. It is an excellent museum full of photos, videos, copies of documents, a relief map of the plaza, etc.. Of course it brought back the powerful sad memories of that tragic day. It is impossible not to remember where I was on that day and to reflect what might have been. Most touching for me at the museum were the statements of visitors in a visitors book.
    Now we have a young, intelligent, stylish Protestant President. May God protect him from all harm!

  4. Steve Says:
    March 23rd, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    And, in moments like you had on the knoll, I often think of the sadly fallen nature of us all. Every last one. And I think of the ways in which I disappoint others, the way in which I disappoint God, and the ways in which I let down His church. Even those I love the very most.

    I stand there for a moment, pondering my humanity, and then I turn, face the future, and resolve to do a bit better next time, in the next moment, and tomorrow. I am sobered by judgement, and reminded of grace, and humility.

    Thanks Mark


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