Do you remember exactly where you were on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963?
Unless you were too young or weren’t born yet, most of us remember exactly where we were the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in downtown Dallas. This November will be 53 years since the tragic event occurred.
Stephen Fagin, newly named full curator at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, was on campus Aug. 11 to give some insight into the assassination to a group of emeritus students. The museum is located at the former Texas School Book Depository at Elm and Houston Streets.
Fagin said the site at Dealey Plaza is now a national historic landmark. For many people, it’s a “sacred space,” like Pearl Harbor, the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City or the World Trade Center.
Fagin, who served as associate curator before his promotion, has been with the museum for 16 years. He discussed pictures of Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, from the www.jfk.org website. He could relate the experience to about everyone who attended the lecture because emeritus students must be at least 50 years of age.
“These moments and memories really connect us to that time period,” Fagin said. “All of you here could tell me exactly where you were at 12:30 p.m. Central Time on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. It’s a common bond that we all
share; it’s part of the human experience.”
Fagin said at the museum, he talks to a lot of groups, especially young students and explains to them what he does as curator.
“Curators create narratives out of the chaos of history,” he said. “Certainly, when you think of the Kennedy assassination, the terms, ‘history’ and ‘chaos’ apply … so often you lose sight of the meaning of the moment because the assassination sadly gets weighed down by a lot of baggage brought about by books and documentaries, films and TV shows over the last half century.”
Fagin will focus on the Kennedy assassination in a four-week noncredit course at Richland titled, “JFK, Dallas and the Power of Memory,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 12 to Oct. 3 in Crockett Hall, room C102. The cost is $30. It will rely heavily on films, video and photographs.
“We’ll do an extremely vivid walk-through of Nov. 22, told through the first-hand perspectives of more than two dozen participants – from a young girl who shook the president’s hand at Love Field, a high school student at W. W. Samuel High School to the press secretary who announced the president’s death to some of the Parkland Hospital physicians who struggled to save the president’slife – to some of the reporters who were waiting for the president at the Dallas Trade Mart for a luncheon he never arrived at,” Fagin said.
Fagin said more people believe in a conspiracy than those who believe that Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old disillusioned ex-Marine, acted alone. The controversy still exists and Jack Ruby is also part of the assassination story.
“When I recount fun facts about our museum to people, I often say we are the second most visited historic site in the state of Texas behind the Alamo in San Antonio,” he said. “More than two thirds of our visitors were born after 1963. More than two thirds of the people that come to our museum, and we have attendance roughly of over 350,000 people per year, don’t have the memories you have. They don’t remember the assassination.”
Fagin said the museum has oral history recollections from a number of people in this community who remember going to other states or countries and being harassed or criticized because they came from Dallas, “the city that killed the president.”
“The Kennedy assassination is about us. It’s about who we are and our memories,” he said. “And so, as part of this course, I’m going to offer attendees the chance to add their stories, their voices to this ongoing oral history project that we’ve been doing at our museum since we opened way back in 1989.”
There are over 1,500 storytellers in the collection who have shared where they were on that fateful day, according to Fagin.
Anyone of any age can sign up for this course through the Emeritus Plus 50 Program in Thunderduck Hall, Room T160, call 972-238-6972 or 6989, or go to www.richlandcollege.edu/emeritus.