After weeks of history documentaries, magazine cover stories and poignant recollections, the United States on Friday was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy.
U.S. President Barack Obama ordered flags to be lowered to half mast, noting that Mr. Kennedy had “called a generation to service and summoned a nation to greatness.” Mr. Kennedy’s accomplishments in founding the Peace Corps, kick-starting the space programme with the goal of a moon landing, navigating the perils of the Cuban missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war: All of these are among the remembrances of his brief presidency.
Friday will see a series of commemorations, with the focus on Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Texas, where the assassination occurred and an assassination museum has been built. An estimated 5,000 people are expected to attend. Around 900 journalists from around the world had registered their plans to cover the ceremony, the newspaper Dallas Newsreported.
In Boston, Massachusetts, where Mr. Kennedy was born, several events are planned including church services, concerts and the opening of an exhibit with personal artefacts of the 35th president that have never been shown in public.
But the enduring video image of the day, one that has rerun on every U.S. broadcast channel for weeks, is that of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in her double-breasted, pink wool suit. She begins the day in Texas with her husband, wearing the suit and matching pillbox hat, a broad smile on her face and an armful of red roses against the pink wool.
Sadly remarkable about her presence was this was her first public outing after giving birth just three months before to their last child, a son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, who died shortly after birth.
By 12:30 pm local time (1830 GMT), yet another tragedy was to befall her. The sniper’s bullet at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, put an end to Jack Kennedy’s life even as she sat next to him in the open-air limousine. Her next actions are embedded in the American psyche: her frantic crawl over the back of the car, her return to the seat, his slumped body in her lap.
And during the long weekend of mourning and burial, broadcast nationwide on television for the media’s first round-the-clock coverage of an event, the enduring image was that of Jackie: How the 34-year-old widow stood next to Lyndon B. Johnson as he was sworn in as president, her husband’s blood caked on the pink suit and on her legs.
She refused to wash and change clothes. “Let them see what they have done,” she later told a journalist.