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Fifty years ago today, on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was slain in Dallas.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 50 years ago today, on Nov. 22, 1963.“Where were you when you heard Kennedy had been shot?” entered the collective consciousness, much as the attack on Pearl Harbor had 22 years earlier and 9/11 would 38 years later.

Kennedy was the not the first American president assassinated in office — Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield and William McKinley were all shot and killed by assassins while in office. While their public assassinations were also tragic for the nation, news of their deaths traveled only as fast as word could spread at the time.

However, Kennedy’s death came after the advent of radio and television, allowing news of his death to travel around the world as fast as newscasters and wire services could gather details and relay the information to their readers, listeners and viewers.

Confusion and a rush to judgment by some television newscasters in the early hours of the event helped fuel conspiracy theories many Americans still believe, made no less serious by the fact the world was at the height of the Cold War.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamKennedy’s death was also different because three ordinary citizens — Abraham Zapruder, Orville Nix and Marie Muchmore — caught the incident on video and dozens more snapped photos. Most likely assumed at the time they would only capture a brief passage of the president through their hometown but instead documented one of the most famous few seconds in American history.

The speed with which news traveled the globe created a sense of simultaneous collective grief among Americans.

Even though Kennedy was shot in Texas, Arizona and other border states were also forever changed.

Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Álvaro Ríos grew up in Arizona’s largest border town. During his recent visit to Sedona in October, Ríos described how before Kennedy’s assassination, Mexican and American citizens passed back and forth from Nogales, Sonora, to Nogales, Ariz., with relative ease, living or working on different sides of the border. They visited relatives and friends and sent their children to school or to play almost as though they lived in neighboring states, not different countries.

All that changed on Nov. 22, 1963, Ríos said, as the entire border closed for first time ever.

That evening, as Texas law enforcement hunted Dallas for Kennedy’s killer, both U.S. and Mexican immigration officials sealed their borders within minutes of each other, preventing nationals and foreigners from entering or leaving, separating children and parents overnight. While some restrictions lifted, the free flow of people between border towns and border states would never be the same.

We can only ponder how different or similar our world would be had it not been for a few seconds 50 years ago.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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