November 22

It’s easy to think, after all these years, that November 22 has lost its significance. It’s true that it’s hard to recall or communicate the sense of tragedy that suffused that day, that weekend, and the years that followed with their new assassinations and anniversaries. Incidentally, I was watching a few minutes of a show the other night that had nothing, nothing at all to do with the first Kennedy killing. It was “The Dog Whisperer,” of all things, an episode in Dallas. In establishing the setting, there were a few quick overview shots of the city. One clip in the montage looked familiar–“Was that the book depository?” I replayed the sequence on TiVo, and the scene appeared again. Just a couple of seconds. A sort of reverse angle view of the familiar ways you see the scene: from the sniper’s vantage in the depository building, from the slope where Zapruder stood taking his home movie. This shot was from across the way, looking toward the book depository from high above. But looking at the scene as a still image, all the pieces were there; it was definitely the place we all knew. We may think we’ve forgotten. But that piece of ground is familiar on an instinctive level.


He stood at the southeast window inside a barrier of cartons. The larger ones formed a wall about five feet high and carried a memory with them, a sense of a kid’s snug hideout, making him feel apart and secure. Inside the barrier were four more cartons–one set lengthwise on the floor, two stacked, one small carton resting on the brick windowsill. A bench, a support, a gun rest. The wrapping paper he’d used to conceal the rifle was on the floor near his feet. Dust. Broken spider webs hanging from the ceiling. He saw a dime on the floor. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.

He looked down Houston Street as the motorcade approached, slow and vivid in the sun. There were people scattered on the lawns of Dealey Plaza, maybe a hundred and fifty, many with cameras. He held the rifle at port arms, more or less, and stood in plain view in the tall window. Everything looked so painfully clear.

The President had chestnut hair and the First Lady was radiant in a pink suit and small round hat. Lee was glad she looked so good. For her own sake. For the cameras. For the pictures that would enter the permanent record.

He spotted Governor John Connally in one of the jump seats, a Stetson in his lap. He liked Connally’s face, a rugged Texas face. This was the kind of man who would take a liking to Lee if he ever got to know him. Cartons stamped Books. Ten Rolling Readers. Everyone was grateful for the weather.

The white pilot car turned, the motorcycles turned. The Lincoln passed beneath him, easing left, making the deep turn left, seeming almost to rotate on an axis. Everything was slow and clear. He got down on one knee, placed his left elbow on the stacked cartons and rested the gun barrel on the edge of the carton on the sill. He sighted on the back of the President’s head. The Lincoln moved into the cover of the live oak, going about ten miles an hour. Ready on the left, ready on the right. Through the scope he saw the car metal shine.

He fired through an opening in the leaf cover.


Don DeLillo