It’s hard to believe that Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas.
That tragic day, Nov. 22, 1963, also was a Friday.
I was 7 and sitting on the school bus in Skowhegan, and we were all saying that the president had been shot.
The bus stopped to pick up teenagers at the high school. We were going home.
It was a dark day, a sad day. People we had never seen crying before were weeping.
A few days later, I visited my mother in the hospital and she was watching the president’s funeral. His wife, Jackie, was walking in the long, somber funeral parade, a black veil covering her face. My mother was crying and that was very odd to me. I had never seen her cry.
For several years after that, I would go into my parents’ bedroom to get the book with the maroon cover that contained all those beautiful photos of the president and his family. I would climb up on the bed and pore over the pages, soaking in every detail of their faces, their clothing, their playing on the beach in Hyannis and sailing on the ocean.
Twelve years after the assassination, I sat in a classroom at the University of Hartford, enrolled in the first course ever taught on the Kennedy assassination.
George Michael Evica, a literature professor and member of the Connecticut Citizen’s Commission of Inquiry on the assassination, was our instructor, along with Harold Sandstrom, a political science professor. The commission was part of the Washington, D.C.-based Citizen’s Commission of Inquiry.
We students each took one area of the assassination and did in-depth research on it. I chose to research the medical evidence and spent months reading about the bullet wounds both Kennedy and then-Texas Gov. John Connally suffered.
I spent long evenings in the library and my dormitory basement, reading everything I could lay my hands on about the medical evidence. I read books and scrutinized the 28 volumes of the “Hearings Before the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy,” and ensuing The Warren Report, issued by the Warren Commission. For weeks, I lived, breathed and dreamed bullet entrance and exit wounds.
I read testimonies of doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where Kennedy and Connally were taken after the shooting in Dealey Plaza.
I produced a 30-page report on the medical evidence, concluding that the Commission’s investigation of the assassination was incomplete and an immediate re-opening of the case was warranted. One person, firing a rifle from the Texas School Book Depository, behind the president, could not have caused all of the wounds Kennedy and Connally sustained.
Furthermore, I believed investigators who maintained the shooting took place only from the book depository were mistaken. Some shots were fired from in front of the president’s limousine. If more than one person was involved, then there was a conspiracy.
Our class that year was the subject of a “Parade” magazine story, which I dug out of a box in my closet this week, along with a story I wrote for our college newspaper, ACME News, about the university’s hosting the first national conference on the assassination, in October 1975. It was a page one story — my first ever story as a reporter for the newspaper — and I shared a byline with our editor, Gil Evans.
At that conference, I sat with national news reporters in the press box. We listened to famous men who had researched and published essays and books about the assassination. They included Mark Lane, Donald Freed, Robert Gruden and Jim Garrison.
I was sure we were on the cusp of something big; that the investigation would be reopened and it would be confirmed that Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, did not act alone.
In May 1976, I submitted my research paper and was interviewed by James Smith, an Associated Press reporter who wrote a story about my project and the class.
I was optimistic. At 20, I was full of energy and confident that all of our hard work would pay off. I thought that we had uncovered enough new evidence to convince the powers that be to reopen the case. But, as time went on and excitement waned, I began to understand that the squeaky wheel does not always get the grease.
Thirty-seven years later, as I sit leafing through my old report and perusing the yellowed newspaper and “Parade” stories, I know that we are no closer to an answer than we were in our fervent pursuit of the truth 12 years after the assassination.
Many believe the case was solved; that Oswald acted alone and Jack Ruby, also acting alone, shot Oswald out of fury and revenge for Kennedy’s death. Cut and dry. Open and shut. Case closed.
I wonder, as I look back on those intense, intriguing months of 1975-76, where my former classmates are and what they think on this, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.
For years after I left college, whenever a story about the assassination appeared in the news, I paid strict attention. Now, something in me stirs, but it fades away like an old, lost memory.
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]