President Kennedy and The First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, arrived at Love Field Airport in Dallas, Texas on the morning of November 22. They were seated in the back of the Presidential limousine behind Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie, and began their ten-mile drive through downtown Dallas on the way to a luncheon at the Trade Mark where the President was scheduled to speak. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife were traveling in a car just a few behind the President’s in the motorcade.
Around 12:30 PM, the motorcade entered Dealey Plaza and gunshots were fired as the limousine passed the Texas School Book Depository. Governor Connally suffered a gunshot wound to the chest, and President Kennedy was shot in his neck and head. A terrified Jackie Kennedy reached over the back of the car after her husband was shot in the head and returned to her seat as the car sped toward nearby Parkland Hospital. When he arrived at the hospital, staff working in the E.R. declared his wound fatal and knew there was nothing they could do to save his life. He was declared dead at 1 PM. Governor Connally went into emergency surgery that day that saved his life.
The President’s body was not legally allowed to leave the hospital until an autopsy was performed, according to Texas law, but a scuffle in which Secret Service agents threatened Texas officials at gunpoint ended in the President’s body being taken to Air Force One. Aboard the plane, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the new President next to Jackie Kennedy whose coat was still splattered with her husband’s blood.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who had recently been hired at the Texas School Book Depository was reported missing by his supervisor. He was arrested 70 minutes after President Kennedy’s assassination for the murder of patrolman J.D. Tippit, who had called Oswald over to his patrol car because he matched the description of the suspect accused of firing shots at Kennedy. Later that night he was charged with both murders.
Two days later, on the morning of November 24, Oswald was being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail. As live television streamed of Oswald being escorted by police, Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner, aimed a pistol at Oswald and shot him at point blank range. Two hours later, Oswald was declared dead at Parkland Hospital. Claiming to be distraught over the assassination, Ruby later said that killing Oswald would spare “…Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial.”
There are many conspiracy theories that have sprouted since the shooting of the former President, even after the Warren Commission concluded there was no conspiracy a year later. Many people doubt that Oswald was the real perpetrator and a 2009 CBS poll found that 76% of Americans believe there was some sort of conspiracy and government cover-up involved to keep the public from the truth. One of the most popular beliefs is that there was a second shooter who has never been identified. The United States House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1978 that the Warren Commission Report was seriously flawed and that individual members of a number of groups including the CIA, the Soviet Union, and other organized crime groups may have been involved.
The event left a lasting impression on the American public, with people still asking the question today, ”Where were you when you heard about Kennedy’s assassination?”