It was a Friday, and I was home ill with the flu. And I was watching televised coverage of President John F. Kenney’s visit to Dallas when I heard that he had been shot and rushed to Parkland Hospital.
The rest of the day became a blur as the news of his death was announced, followed by word that Gov. John Connolly of Texas had also been shot.
And then there was the news of the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit and the subsequent arrest of someone by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald.
All the developments came at me and millions more around the world in such a torrent, it was difficult to assimilate all what had happened.
And then, of course, several days later, we learned of the killing of Oswald by a guy named Jack Ruby.
Those images of Ruby shooting Oswald as he was being led out of the Dallas Police Station had at least some kind of connection for me.
As Ruby thrust his gun toward Oswald and fired, a hand pushed a microphone in Oswald’s direction. It was subsequently reported that the microphone was held by a CBS radio news reporter by the name of Ike Papas.
“Ike Papas,” I said to myself. I had met him while we were both serving in the Army in Germany in 1956.
I didn’t know Ike well, but I do remember spending a day with him in Heidelberg. He was a good friend of Bob Chaikin, a fellow New Yorker who was in my unit at Stuttgart, and we decided to visit his friend Ike in Heidelberg, where Ike was stationed.
We spent most of the day touring the historic university town and even went to a famous beer hall featured in “The Student Prince.”
And then, when I got out of the Army several months later and visited Bob at his Brooklyn home, we went over to Ike’s place in nearby Forest Hills, and he joined us in going to a huge tavern known as the Town and Country for a beer or two.
Anyway, that was one personal tie to the Kennedy assassination. A second came a decade ago when I visited Dallas and the Texas School Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza. Looking out of the corner window on the sixth floor, the distance to the street below where the Kennedy entourage was passing in 1963 really didn’t look that far.
From that visit and from what I’ve gleaned from reading and watching since 1963, Oswald fired the three shots in 8 seconds and killed Kennedy. A two-hour PBS special on Oswald that aired this past Tuesday provides a great deal of detailed information confirming that conclusion for me, along with Oswald’s killing of Tibbit.
Circumstances of the assassination and mistakes of the Warren Commission, whose members were pushed to complete their investigation in a hurry, have helped spawn countless conspiracy theories. But I haven’t seen or heard anything of a substantial nature to change my opinion.
Oswald’s visits to New Orleans and then Mexico City before Nov. 23, 1963, do provide unanswered questions that lead many Americans believe Oswald didn’t act alone. Those questions by themselves, however, haven’t caused me to change my opinion without additional evidence.
Differing opinions about the Kennedy Assassination — and I’ve had conversations with a number of friends with positions different from mine — will continue indefinitely. So many people have a difficult time accepting the fact that someone so inconsequential as Lee Harvey Oswald could kill the president of the United States without being a front guy for some kind of group — the Mafia, the CIA, Cubans of all stripes, right-wingers, you name it. That disbelief, stronger today than a few decades ago, will keep conspiracy theories alive for years and decades to come — and probably longer.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.