Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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.
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