How many times have you heard those words come up these last few weeks heading up to the tragedy of this anniversary day.
If only John Kennedy had a top on that limousine.
If only his car hadn't turned on to Dealey Plaza.
If only colleagues of Lee Harvey Oswald had connected his strange behavior that day.
Or his disinterest in seeing the President of the United States drive by his building that day.
If only the President hadn't even gone to Dallas, at all, that day.
But he did.
It's on film. It's all on film.
The smiling. The waving. The crowds converging.
If only you could stop the film there. Freeze it there. And tell everyone in the car, "get out of here."
Get out of here.
But you can't.
Because no one's listening.
And only hindsight's watching.
So the motorcade motors on.
Oblivious to the horror that is but minutes away.
You feel like shouting, "Stop. Turn away. Get out!"
Just like you do when you see those Challenger astronauts heading out for their journey.
Or cheerful passengers on that maiden voyage of the Titanic heading out for theirs.
If only. If only.
If only they knew what we know now they'd listen now. And turn back now.
But they can't. They don't.
You feel like screaming it. But they can't hear it.
Just like you feel like shouting to anyone who'll listen that this non-descript man handing out leaflets bashing the United States is someday going to kill the President of the United States.
But Lee Harvey Oswald doesn't get anyone's attention then. Not yet.
Just like this similarly innocuous flier named Muhammad Atta doesn't get airline security guards' attention the early morning of September 11th. Not then. Not yet.
There they are, plain as day before we will all rue the day. If only.
Only we didn't.
It's like when I look at home videos of my mom and dad, some but days before their respective deaths.
If only I could freeze their smiles and laughter. And lock it there. Keep it there.
Keep things exactly as they were there.
A moment locked in time.
Like crowds watching a president and his wife because they wanted to see history.
Not knowing they would all soon become a part of history.
Recorded in the moment before the moment is wrecked.
And the innocence of that moment.