This just in…
In national news: This week, we observe the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which occurred on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas at Dealey Plaza.
For most Americans, 90% of the information contained in the above sentence is redundant. Mention Dealey Plaza and you can pretty much fill in the rest of the blanks. Key words like “Kennedy” or “November 22” yield similar results in our own internal search engines. It’s about as automatic a response as your multiplication tables.
The Zapruder film? We’ve all seen those 486 frames of film several hundred times full-speed, in slow motion, forwards, backwards and zoomed-in. I know Kennedy’s final wave of the hand, the moment the first shot hits Kennedy, when he starts to reach for his neck, followed by the second fatal shot, Jackie Kennedy reacting in horror, the secret service agent jumping onto the back of the limo and the car speeding away. All of the above transcribed herein with no need to review the footage. It’s there. Forever. Embedded in my being.
But it wasn’t until February 6, 2011 that I learned just how ingrained the moment was.
On that weekend nearly three years ago, I was in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV, compliments of my employer. I had received the trip as a reward for my performance during 2010. Over the course of the weekend, our itinerary was completely booked with NFL parties and corporate events, spa treatments, a private dinner prepared by Anne Burrell, a Maroon 5 concert and another concert featuring Usher, hosted by Mark Cuban. There was little or no time to reflect upon any historic events that had happened in Dallas nearly five decades earlier.
On the morning of the big game, I had the opportunity to hear former Colts head coach speak at an intimate brunch and even managed to ask him what went through his mind as he stood on the sideline during the Super Bowl while the National Anthem played. For me as a fan, that singular moment is always very emotional. I’ll admit that I get choked up and not out of some patriotic glee. I can’t help but wonder what it must feel like to be a player in that moment, realizing that everything you’ve worked and dreamed for has finally landed you in that exact spot, at that precise moment. As the anthem rolls, I think how awesome it must be for those young men to think, “I did it. I got here. I have a chance to play for the prize I’ve wanted forever.”
Interestingly, Dungy admitted to being so focused on what he had to do and what his role was that the moment is mostly a blur. I love that. Focus. Concentration. Dedication.
As brunch ended, we were given our tickets and directed to a couple of charter buses that would take us to Cowboys Stadium for the game. I remember being so excited to get on the bus and get to the game. After all the festivities of the weekend, this was ultimately why we were in Dallas. The buses took off from the hotel escorted front and back by six motorcycle police. And yes, traveling to the Super Bowl with a police escort is exactly as awesome as it sounds.
Our route took us south of the hotel down North Houston Street. And then something funny happened to me. I become very cognizant of something incredibly familiar as the bus made a gentle right hand turn. I couldn’t figure out why I had this feeling I knew exactly where I was, even though I had never been to this particular part of Dallas.
But that turn of the bus.
And then I looked out the window and saw shapes that jarred my memory, my very DNA. This is the spot. And sure enough, as I looked out the window there was the grassy knoll up ahead and the familiar building on the corner to my right. As the bus rolled through the gentle “S” turn, I was there in Dealey Plaza. In the place I had seen so many hundreds of times.
I gazed out the window as the bus sped away, taking in my own personal 486 frames of instantaneous recognition. What a strange, surreal experience it was to travel that fateful route on our way to the Super Bowl. Escorted by police, no less.
As that dark moment in our nation’s history approaches its 50 year anniversary, I wonder how many more times I’ll see those images over the next week. No doubt, I’ll watch black and white video of Walter Kronkite removing his glasses, clearing his throat and telling a nation that their president had died.
And I’ll pray that in my lifetime, I never have to know where I was “when I heard the news.”