Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Through History

I went to Dallas on business last week and asked the concierge at the downtown Sheraton for a 3-mile running route. She pulled out a map and traced a route with a marker.

"Go out the north door and turn left, follow the tracks down Pacific Avenue and go a mile, loop down around the Grassy Knoll here . . ."

I interrupted her. "Excuse me, the Grassy Knoll? You mean the site of the JFK assassination?"

"Yes," she said.

At 5 a.m. the next morning, in perfect weather for running, I altered her route slightly and ran through history. I went out the north door, ran west a block to Harwood, turned left and ran by the magnificent Majestic Theatre on Elm Street and continued on to Main Street. Turning right, I ran through the stillness of the early morning thinking about November 22, 1963 and President Kennedy's last few minutes of life.

Perhaps I was running down Main Street at the same speed as his open-air limousine was travelling along the same roadway as his presidential motorcade crawled towards its history-altering meeting with fate at Dealey Plaza, still half a mile ahead of me. I had no noontime sunlight or cheering crowds to spur me on, only my somber thoughts in the early morning darkness and the presence of little groups of silently moving homeless people on the sidewalks.

I passed over Griffin, Lamar, Austin and Market Streets. I ran by Founders Plaza on my right as Houston Street loomed ahead, on the corner where the motorcade made a torturous right turn and passed by the very building which housed the jail where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to have been taken when he was executed in the basement of the courthouse a few blocks behind me.

I made the same right turn. Forty-eight years ago the unsuspecting President Kennedy had less than a minute to live.

I ran a short block and yawed left onto Elm Street, right under a tall fortress of a building, the Texas School Book Depository. I ran down the hill directly away from the Depository and entered the killing zone.

An X painted on the roadway in the middle lane marked the spot where the first bullet struck President Kennedy. This "magic bullet" fired from the corner sixth-storey window of the Depository by Oswald using a twelve-dollar mail-order rifle passed through both President Kennedy and Governor Connolly and inflicted seven wounds upon the two men.

I stopped and looked back. I instantly saw that a man with a rifle in that window could easily kill me, even if I was desperately darting about.

Ten yards further down there is another X painted in the roadway, the site of the fatal head shot. I looked back and the window still seemed so close.

That spot is directly in line with the magic-bullet shot, leaving the shooter to only have to train the rifle barrel slightly downward without any side-to-side movement. The assassination spot was obviously carefully chosen and previously sited in.

I glanced to the north thirty feet and surveyed the infamous grassy knoll. I could see no obvious place for a shooter to hide over there, and it would be a much harder shot since the target would be passing across the shooter's sights and not merely away from him.

I ran the rest of the way down the hill and under the triple underpass where the vehicle bearing the mortally stricken president went. Now I had gone too far on my run and I got lost within a maze of elevated restricted-access highways.

After fifteen minutes of adventuring which included a trip through a homeless camp, a climb up a steep hillside and a trek along an elevated railroad track, I found my way back to the hotel. Inside I went by the workout room and glanced in to see half a dozen guests toiling away in place on dreadmills, ellipticals and stair masters, a mere mile away from a run through momentous history.


Joe the Novelist said...

Nice! That's why I like running outside.

pensive said...

I have done that route, though I was walking. Were you not taken aback by the idea that it was a knoll? Didn't seem like much of a knoll to me. More like a slight rise.

When I was there I definitely felt the weight of history. Thanks for helping me relive that.