November 24, 1963
44 years have passed and it’s still a fresh, and shocking, memory. It was a Sunday and my husband and I and a close friend were in our NY City apartment. We were grieving over the assassination of President Kennedy two days earlier. We were also glued to the TV set because the accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was about to be transferred from the Dallas police station to a nearby county jail, and it was to be televised.
Nowadays we are used to 24 hour news broadcasting and instant replays. In 1963, however, it was a big deal to be watching this event “live” and we didn’t want to miss a bit of it. I remember that we even hired a young teenager to watch the children so that we could give it our undivided attention!
It was early afternoon in New York and a light scattering of snow had fallen. Our friend Chick had arrived, bearing warm bagels and cream cheese. We had planned on watching the Oswald transfer while enjoying our light brunch and then taking a short walk in Central Park.
We had no inkling of the dramatic events that were about to unfold before our very eyes. The TV screen showed the halls of the Dallas Police station, jammed with reporters, and it was difficult to pick out the detectives or officers from the rest.
Suddenly the door opened and Oswald was escorted in to the room. It was mere seconds before a man leaped forward and, with gun in hand, he shot him at close range. None of us could believe what we’d seen. Mass confusion ensued and the TV announcer was as much in the dark as were we, the viewers.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo above was shot by Robert H. Jackson of the Dallas Times-Herald. It is amazing that he could react so quickly. That same picture had flashed before our eyes but was soon obscured as a roomful of men wrestled the shooter to the ground. It wasn't long before he was identified as Jack Ruby...a well known man about town.
Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, had gained admittance to the Police station by impersonating a newspaper reporter. No one thought to check for weapons and it was easy for him to draw his gun and fatally wound the 24 year old Oswald. Ruby was tried and convicted of murder but he petitioned for a second trial and died in 1967 of cancer before he could be tried again. (He went to his death convinced that he’d been poisoned with “cancer cells”.)
Ruby never explained why he shot Oswald and speculations have been going on for years as to their connection with the crime syndicate and the assassination of President Kennedy. When I hear those arguments it never fails to take me back to that November day in 1963 and to the shock of watching an execution take place before our eyes and the eyes of a stunned nation.