Mark D. Roberts

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.

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