Six seconds and two shots later. Fifty years ago today America's heart was broken.
Dealey Plaza became the most investigated public square in our history and the site of our national horror.
Today, on November 22, it becomes a site of solemn remembrance. The ghoulish painted white X that once marked the murder location has now been taken away by the city of Dallas -- as if to forever exorcise the undeserved stain of guilt.
And so it should be.
JFK -- the hero of PT 109.
The profiler of courage, humiliated at the bay of pigs and then staring Russian nukes down in Cuba.
The doting father, the complex and unfaithful husband, waved to the crowds one last time.
The magnetic hope. The handsome youth.
He promised, with each broad smile on Elm Street that day, he presaged a new American future larger than party, politician, or platform.
Seemingly the dream died hard here as Lee Harvey Oswald's mail order rifle shocked the happy din.
As the motorcade sped to Parkland Hospital -- America wept and the world seemed to stop.
In the Solomon Islands a native who had helped rescue Lt. Kennedy in the war stared at his photo and cried.
Theatergoers in England rose to sing "The Star Spangled Banner." And a study showed that one half of all Americans cried as if a loved one had been taken from their family.
Time has proven that John F. Kennedy, the great grandson of an Irish Catholic immigrant, was a man with faults who won a close and even disputable election.
But his impact on America is indisputable. Leaders who die young are often assigned the role of inspirer. And he was Inspirer-in-Chief.
We are proud to live his tenets of American Exceptionalism as if the founders spoke them. That as Americans we should "ask not." That it is our duty to "pay any price and bear any burden." That it is our birthright to change the world. And his death did.
40,000 books written about him. Maybe as many institutions named after him.
In spite of the tragedy that unfolded here in Dallas, we remember more the winning confidence of our tragic hero, who even in his rendezvous with death will always inspire us to understand that the best days of America are still ahead of us.