While living in Hungary, when I told people I was from Dallas they immediately thought of two things, the beloved TV series and the place where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Although I’ve been to Southfork Ranch a couple of times, I’m not going to share those adventures right now. Instead, I’m going to tell you about my recent adventure in downtown Dallas to the site of one event that heavily impacted the world.
On 22 November 1963, President Kennedy flew from Fort Worth where he attended an event at the Hotel Texas (the Texas Boys Choir performed at that event) to Dallas where he would ride through downtown to get to his next event. As the motorcade pulled into Dealey Plaza, they made two turns to get onto Elm for easier freeway access. This took them right past a seven story building, the Texas School Book Depository. As they drove down Elm to the triple underpass, three shots rang out and the President was killed.
That seven story building was quickly recognized the world over since from a sixth floor window is where a gunman had fired the fatal shots. Since 1989, the Sixth Floor Museum has been operating there to tell the story of what led to, what happened on and what resulted from that November day. As a school boy, I visited the museum, but this time I attended as a Certified Tourism Ambassador.
The museum hosted area CTA’s to experience the museum and attend a brief networking event. It was well worth the time. As my sister and I approached the museum from Dealey Plaza, we checked out the street and the grassy knoll from ground level.
You enter the museum from the rear of the building. On this main level you pay admission and if you wish purchase the audio tour. I’m glad we did the audio tour. It tells the story with first-person accounts of people who were there and involved in what was happening. From the lobby, you go up to the infamous sixth floor and begin the tour. With both the audio and self-guided tours, you will follow a series of plaques with information, photos and artifacts on display.
The scene is set as visitors learn about the Kennedys and JFK’s presidential race and initiatives once in office. Next we find out why he was visiting Texas and what led to the fateful moments at Dealey Plaza. The museum leads guests through the event and what immediately ensued in the aftermath. One of the more powerful segments for me was the impact that Kennedy had for good on the world and how the world mourned his loss not just his countrymen.
Other highlights of the tour include the discussion of evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald and the discussion of possible conspiracies. To look out the windows of the sixth floor and see the Xs on the road marking where the three shots hit the President is also very sobering. Throughout the tour, there are also videos that help tell the story, each one worth their time as part of the story telling.
The exhibition ends with a place to share your memories of Kennedy and what happened. This is just after you see that cities all over the world have named schools and streets in memoriam.
On the seventh floor, the museum has temporary exhibits. The exhibit I saw was about Jack Ruby, the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV in the parking garage of the police building. It is a small exhibit, but you learn a lot about the man and a little about why he did what he did that has since sparked so much controversy and conspiracy.
After we took the tour, we met as CTAs in their event space on the seventh floor for a little networking and to hear from the museum’s staff. Not surprisingly, they told us that almost 15% of their visitors each year are international. Also, they are private and not funded by the city, county or state. They shared with us several upcoming events including living history presentations with astronauts and forensic scientists, panel discussions with the Peace Corp, one of Kennedy’s biggest achievements, and so much more.
The museum also has a gift shop on the first floor, a larger bookstore and café across the street, the audio tours and cell phone tours for Dealey Plaza. They gave us a coupon for the cell phone tour, so I’ll have another adventure there soon.
The museum is open Mondays 12-6 and Tuesday through Sunday 10-6. However, during the week leading up the Super Bowl, they will be open at 9 every day. Visit their website for more information about admission, events and their research reading room. Also, for Dallas Passbook owners, there are a few coupons for the museum discount admission in your books.
(As a word of warning, if you approach from the museum from Dealey Plaza, there are a few men outside who will come up to you and begin to give you a brief tour. They are not associated with the museum and spout off conspiracy theories. The worst part however is that they pretend to be kind Dallas citizens just sharing with tourists the story of what happened then at the end they expect to get paid, and if you don’t pay them they follow you and badmouth you all the way to the museum.)