Last week marked the 39th anniversary of the awful day that John Kennedy was murdered. I covered that story as a young reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and last week I was back in Dallas to take part in a symposium marking that day.
The top floor of the building where Lee Harvey Oswald hid in wait for Kennedy is now a museum. At first, the people of Dallas wanted no part of such a place. Some wanted to tear the building down. Many just wanted to forget what happened there.
But wiser people prevailed. Today, the museum has become a repository for film, documents, and any and all things connected with that day which can be catalogued and made available for research. And it is a place that has been tastefully arranged, so that everyone can visit and get a better understanding of the awful thing that happened there.
The assassination of John Kennedy was unlike anything modern America had ever experienced, and, in the days after it happened, as people groped for an explanation, many blamed Dallas. We soon came to understand it was not Dallas, but a madman, who was to blame.
As I strolled through the museum, it struck me that only in a land where the people rule would there be such a place. Totalitarian societies generally have no reliable history. Each generation rewrites the past to cover up mistakes and embarrassments. Only free people keep accurate histories. The people of Dallas are to be congratulated for the good thing they have done.
Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.