If I could time and place jump, I would set the magic time machine dial to Dallas, Texas for two dates. The first would be November 22, 1963 and the second would be August 13, 1995. The first date is an infamous date in American history, the second marked the end of the first and only sports hero that I ever had.
I was attending high school in Houston, Texas when the first event occurred. It was approximately 11:30 and, as I walked into the school cafeteria for my assigned lunch break, my Physical Education teacher yelled at me to go down to his office to get his clipboard and to bring it to him. A portable radio on his desk was blaring a Top 40 song as I reached his office. The song (My Boyfriend’s Back) was suddenly interrupted by a bulletin, “The President has been shot in Dallas. Shots have been heard coming from the Texas Schoolbook Depository and a grassy knoll.”
If I could go back to that time and place, my attention would be fixed to that “grassy knoll”. Here it is almost five decades later and we still do not know the details of the conspiracy that assassinated our 35th President. Screw the Warren Commission. I heard it on the radio two minutes after the bloody deed; shots were fired from two places, a six story building and a glassy knoll.
I found myself in Dallas five months later; I traveled there for a high school event. My chaperone suggested that we visit the building and the grassy knoll. We entered the building and walked up to the 6th floor from a stairway. The room took up the entire floor, and a scattering of boxed school books littered the room. The floor was wooden and a double column of wood posts rose to the ceiling about every 25 feet, about twelve posts in all. Perhaps 20 windows lined one side of the room. One window on the far side of the room had a simple black drape covering it. The floor was littered with more than a few empty shell casings; someone must have spilled them on the floor for effect.
No effect was needed, goose bumps rose on my arms and my heart raced as I walked towards that heavy black drape that covered the infamous window. I lifted the corner of the covering, and I saw the same sight of the road that Lee Harvey Oswald had seen when the motorcade had passed by five months earlier. Tears welled in my eyes as I stood there. History had been made and changed significantly from the exact spot where I was now standing.
The grassy knoll was still covered with yellow police tape. I know that the tape was there to prohibit curious gawkers such as myself from walking up the grass-covered slope. Yet I had been fortunate to be allowed full access to the 6th floor of the School Book Depository.
Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital just a few minutes after he arrived there on that fateful day. It is ironic that one of his killers, Lee Harvey Oswald, died there just 48 hours later, himself a victim of assassination by Jack Ruby. It is like the Yin and the Yang. What goes around comes around.
Flash forward (back) to August 13, 1995 and I am again in Dallas and at a hospital. This time it is Baylor University Hospital. While I used the magic time machine that first time to see for myself what had happened in that grassy knoll, this time I have no business standing in the room I am in. I am there only in deference to the individual who is near death in the hospital bed.
“Who is that there standing in the shadows?”, the dying man asks.
“It is only me, a simple fan”, I answer. “You were my hero when I was a boy, the best hero that a little boy could ever have”.
“I do not deserve your adulation or your remembrance”, he says.
“Of course you do Mister Mantle. You were the hero to an entire Nation of little boys; I was just one of them”.