JFK Assassination 50 Years Later: Witnesses to Tragedy

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Pierce Allman was a young news manager at a local radio and television station when President John F. Kennedy came to his hometown, and Allman found himself drawn to the motorcade, excited to see the young president and his glamorous wife.

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President Kennedy and the first lady smile at the crowds lining their motorcade route in Dallas. (Credit: PBS)

What Allman witnessed that day sometimes invades his dreams: the shots booming, Kennedy’s arms jerking up to his throat, the first lady screaming.

“It’s a distinct sensation because everything is vivid,” he said. “It’s timeless; there’s no concept of 50 years. It’s as if it was yesterday or a few days ago. You can hear all the sounds. Sometimes it’s in slow motion.”

Dallas is preparing to officially mark the anniversary of the assassination for the first time. A crowd of 5,000 people, selected by lottery, will gather in Dealey Plaza for the unveiling of a monument, musical performances and readings from Kennedy’s speeches by historian David McCullough. At 12:30 p.m., around the time Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, bells will toll across the city, followed by a moment of silence.

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