Fresh off a trip to Dallas, Texas, some Winthrop University students who are studying President Kennedy’s assassination say seeing Dealey Plaza has changed their minds about what happened there on Nov. 22, 1963.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
The students are in a required general education course focused on critical thinking, reading and writing. Their professor, Bryan Ghent, has put a special twist on the basics of the class. This semester, Ghent’s class has examined the evidence, official investigations and conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.
In addition to class discussions and writing assignments, the Winthrop students read Jim Marrs’ “Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy” and Gerald Posner’s “Case Closed.” The point of the class, Ghent said, was to encourage “students to dig deeply into a complex issue.” Marrs’ book argues for a conspiracy; Posner’s that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
He wants his students “to start the hard work toward finding accurate answers to their own significant questions, whatever they may be, and to have the courage to believe the results.”
Last weekend, the class took a two-day trip to Dallas, where they toured The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza and heard from witnesses who saw the shooting.
In reflecting on the Dallas trip, Ghent said, “I continue to question what happened that day and the years since, not because I can’t accept that an inconsequential worm like Oswald could do so much damage with a twelve-dollar rifle, but because the death of one man unraveled our way of life the way that it did.”
The Herald has compiled below what some of Ghent’s students had to say about their Dallas experience:
Sarah Savage said she was moved by the “X” painted in the road at Dealey Plaza that marks the spot in which Kennedy was killed while riding in his presidential limousine.
“What hit me standing there is that ‘X’ represents more than just a point for triangulating bullet trajectories,” Savage said.
“Suddenly a conspiracy involving agents, foreign or domestic, crime figures, America’s elite, or Cuba’s political refugees, did not seem so important. That ‘X’ marked the spot where a wife watched her husband be brutally murdered. It marked the beginning of a son’s life without his father. It marked a family torn apart and a country devastated by the loss of their leader.”
Aaron Ball said the trip didn’t change his opinion about who killed Kennedy but it did lead him to see Kennedy as an inspirational political figure in American history. He added, “All of the research and discussions that had taken place in class about the assassination could not have prepared me for the somber feeling that took over when standing in that historic part of the city. You could almost visualize the crowds, the motorcade and the excitement that filled the air that day – which would forever be remembered for the tragedy it beheld.”
Eric Setzer said he was convinced, prior to the trip that it would have been possible for someone to have shot Kennedy from a grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza. But, he says, the knoll and plaza were much smaller than he’d imagined while looking at photos.
“I now find it hard to believe that if there was a shooter behind the fence on the grassy knoll, that it would have been so easy for that person to shoot the president and get away without being caught,” Setzer said.
“Since multiple people ran towards the grassy knoll ... it would have been nearly impossible for a man carrying a rifle to get away.”
Hunter Mundinger disagrees, saying he does not think Oswald acted alone.
“From the sixth floor window I could see the actual shots that Oswald would have had to make and I still do not accept that he made those shots ... the grassy knoll seems to provide the perfect shot,” he said.
Rachel Trueblood says she isn’t sure if Oswald acted alone, and seeing Dealey Plaza added to her uncertainty about what happened.
“I have come to the personal conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved in the JFK assassination but I do not believe that he acted alone, nor do I believe that he was a crazed madman without a purpose,” she said. “Dallas opened my eyes to how hard it has been for America to escape and overcome (Kennedy’s) assassination.”
Linda O’Connor said the commercialization of Dealey Plaza made her angry.
“If Kennedy’s murder was some sort of a conspiracy within our government, and I believe it was, then it seems to me that these tours, museums and gift shops are exactly what our government wants for its people. It’s a distraction,” O’Connor said.
Lauren Miller agreed, saying most tourists were just casually taking in Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum.
But, she and other students “gave each other looks when the (museum director) told us they only presented the ‘historical fact’ that Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald,” Miller said.
“We scoffed as the tour guide told us Oswald was the only person to ever defect to Russia. Our class might not know the truth about what happened on November 22, but we know enough to recognize the lies presented as the truth.”
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068