DALLAS — President John F. Minutes after Kennedy was shot as his motorcade passed through downtown Dallas, Associated Press reporter Becky Simpson rushed to the scene and immediately attached herself to police officers swarming the building, riddled with sniper bullets. He was fired.
“I was under their armpits,” Simpson said, adding that every time he could get any information from them, he would rush to a pay phone to call his teachers and then “go back to the cops.”
As the nation marks the 60th anniversary of the massacre on Wednesday, November 22, 1963, Simpson, now 84, is one of the last witnesses to share their stories.
“When the last voices of that era disappear, a tangible link to the past is lost,” said Stephen Fagin, curator of the sixth-floor museum in Dealey Plaza, which tells the story of the assassination from a Texas schoolbook. Depository, Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper perch found.
“Even 10 years ago, many of the voices that were here to share their memories — law enforcement officers, reporters, eyewitnesses — many of them are dead,” he said.
Simpson, former U.S. Secret Service agent Clint Hill and others are featured in “JFK: One Day in America,” a three-part series by National Geographic published this month that combines their memories with archival footage, some of it in color. First time. Director Ella Wright said hearing from those who were there helps tell the “behind-the-scenes” story that augments archival footage.
“We want people to really understand what it feels like to be back there and experience the emotional impact of those events,” Wright said.
People still gather at Dealey Plaza, where the president’s motorcade was passing when Kennedy was killed.
“This massacre definitely defined a generation,” Fagin said. “For those who lived through it and came of age in the 1960s, it represented a significant shift in American culture.”
“On this day, we remember that he saw not darkness, but the land of light; Honor, not disgrace; It’s where we don’t want to postpone the work he started and where we all need to move forward now,” Biden said in a statement.
On the day of the assassination, Simpson was first assigned to attend an evening fundraiser for Kennedy in Austin. Because she had time before she left Dallas, she was sent to watch the presidential motorcade, but she was nowhere near Dealey Plaza.
Simpson had no idea anything out of the ordinary had happened until he arrived at the Dallas Times Herald building, where the AP’s office is located. As she got off an elevator, she heard a newspaper receptionist say, “All we know is the president has been shot,” and then heard the paper’s editorial staff explain.
She runs to the AP office just in time to notice that she recorded the news to the world over the bureau chief’s shoulder, and runs to the Texas school library to find more information.
Later, at police headquarters, he said he witnessed “a wild, maddened, chaotic, incomprehensible scene.” Reporters filled the hallways where an officer walked with Oswald’s rifle. The suspect’s mother and wife arrived, and at one point officers held a news conference where Oswald was asked questions by reporters.
“I was with a large group of other reporters trying to find any information,” he said.
Two days later, Simpson was attending to Oswald’s transfer from police headquarters to the county jail when nightclub owner Jack Ruby walked out on news reporters and shot the suspect.
As police officers wrestled Ruby to the ground, Simpson rushed to a nearby phone bank and “started dictating to AP editors everything I saw,” he said. At that moment, she was thinking about the news.
“As an AP reporter, you’re looking at the phone and you can’t process anything at that moment,” he said.
Simpson must have heard the gunshot, but she couldn’t remember it.
“Ruby was probably 2 or 3 feet away from me, but I didn’t know him, I didn’t see him, I didn’t see the reporters come out of the crowd,” he said.
Simpson’s reminiscences are included in the sixth-floor museum’s oral history collection, which now has about 2,500 records, Fagin says.
The museum’s curator, Simpson, said, “That weekend was a great example of someone who really got caught up in historical events while doing his job as a professional journalist.”
Oral histories are still being recorded, Fagin said. Many people in recent times remember hearing about the holocaust when they were children in the 60s and were at school.
“Trying to capture these memories is really a race against time,” Fagin said.
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