This has been and will continue to be a week of haunting images, and for many, bad memories. Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
For those alive at the time, they will never forget where they were when they heard the shocking news that Kennedy had been shot while riding in a motorcade through the streets of downtown Dallas.
For those too young to remember or who were not even born by Nov. 22, 1963, no doubt the photographs and the home movie filmed by Abraham Zapruder make the assassination known to you, almost as if you were there when it happened.
In essence, Zapruder represented all of America that day in Dallas. He had innocently sought to capture a special moment, a president riding through his town. That innocence was lost when he captured the assassination on film.
Indeed, many say the nation lost its innocence that day. That may be a tough notion to understand. After all, the memories of World War II, the Korean War, race riots and even the Cuban Missile Crisis should have been fresh in the minds of many Americans. This nation should not have been naive enough to believe that evil didn’t exist.
But for many, the Kennedys represented what was good in America. You had a young family man, a veteran of World War II, raising his children in front of the nation’s eyes while trying to do right for his country. After all, it was Camelot.
Still, what probably makes the assassination stand out in the minds of most — beyond that by its nature the killing of a president would stand out — was the then modern technology that brought such an event to the public like never before.
Television networks broke into programming with live bulletins of the killing of Kennedy. The networks continued with live coverage throughout the aftermath of the assassination, even capturing the moment when the alleged killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot by Jack Ruby.
Photographs captured the assassination and its aftermath, showing the emotions of people who witnessed the shooting, and newspapers were quick to print multiple photos and special editions carrying the news of the day.
And of course, the Zapruder film captured the exact moment when President John F. Kennedy lost his life to an assassin’s bullet.
Life magazine published each frame as still photographs, all but frame 313, which showed the moment the fatal bullet struck Kennedy’s head. Most never saw the actual film until a decade after the assassination.
The memories may fade, and those who played a role in the events of that day eventually will no longer be able to tell their stories. What are left are the photographs and the films to remind us of a horrible time in our nation’s history, the images not of when America lost its innocence but of when America lost its president.