Dallas

First Kennedy, then Ebola and now an attack on Dallas

President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy smile at the crowds lining their motorcade route in Dallas, on Nov. 22, 1963. Minutes later the President was assassinated as his car passed through Dealey Plaza.
President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy smile at the crowds lining their motorcade route in Dallas, on Nov. 22, 1963. Minutes later the President was assassinated as his car passed through Dealey Plaza. © Bettmann/CORBIS

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The nation’s first case of the deadly Ebola virus. And now this.

Again, the world is riveted to horrific news from Dallas, this time to the deadliest killing of police officers since the 9-11 attacks in New York City, according to a list compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Again, Dallas hospitals are tending to the hurt and dying.

The bloody ambush Thursday that killed five police officers and injured seven more took place within sight of the Texas Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald was standing when he fired the shots that killed a beloved president on Nov. 22, 1963.

On Friday morning, people-watchers in downtown Dallas marveled at the similarities between the two tragic shooting events their city is now known for.

“That was the first thing I thought of, the [Kennedy] assassination, when I heard the shots last night,” said Herbert Cummings, 58, who was exiting a McDonald’s restaurant Thursday night when the shooting began just a few blocks away.

“It does seem in some ways like we’ve had an awful lot of experience with trying to overcome adversity,” said Southern Methodist University professor Rita Kirk, who is director of the school’s Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility. “What Dallas particularly brings to the table: Having gone through this before can also serve as a model for how we can recover.”

The news reports in the Star-Telegram the day after Kennedy was murdered have the same brutal feel as today’s: “Three shots reverberated and blood sprang from the president’s face. He fell face forward. His wife clutched his head, crying, ‘Oh, no!’ 

It does seem in some ways like we’ve had an awful lot of experience with trying to overcome adversity.

SMU professor Rita Kirk

Cummings, a lifelong Dallas resident, was just a 4-year-old child when Kennedy was killed, and he remembers walking through downtown Dallas holding hands with an adult relative that day.

He was back in downtown Dallas Friday morning to check out the scene, as members of the press from Eastern Europe, South Korea and across the globe once again swarmed his hometown to cover a story of tragedy and devastation.

“They both happened just a few blocks apart,” said Cummings. “They were both done by a sniper.”

Cummings said he was somewhat worried that the police shooting would further tarnish Dallas’ image, but he also believes most people understand it could have happened in any city.

“You never want something like that to happen,” he said.

WFAA cameras captured the harrowing scene Thursday night in downtown Dallas when the first shots were fired after the police protest.

Remembering Ebola

Both tragedies also bring back memories of the days in 2014 when Dallas and the world reeled as first a Liberian man and then two Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurses were diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus.

The Star-Telegram reported later, after Thomas Eric Duncan had died and the two nurses were recovering, “As it turned out, more lives were placed in more danger than anyone expected. Healthcare workers, schoolchildren, whole families, travelers and law enforcement officers were caught in the web that continued to grow after Duncan died Oct. 8.”

The eventual results of the Ebola cases in Dallas show the city’s resilience in tough times, Kirk said.

“Dallas has always been the frontier town, has always been on the edge of new things,” she said. “I think again it’s that pioneer spirit — this is broken, what can we do to fix it?

The bloody ambush Thursday that killed five police officers and injured seven more took place within sight of the Texas Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald was standing when he fired the shots that killed a beloved president on Nov. 22, 1963.

A few months later, Dallas had a part in setting up models for other emergency rooms on how to handle Ebola screening and potential cases, and setting the stage for questions to ask as people entered the country, she said.

“All of those protocols changed with people saying let’s look forward,” she said.

“But we have to grieve over the loss of life — again.”

Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife Amber were the center of world attention when Dr. Brantly contracted the Ebola virus while treating Ebola patients in Liberia. They talk about their experience with the Star-Telegram. Star-Telegram video by Paul Mosel

‘Issues of the soul’

The answers, said Kirk, are not easy. She said that while leadership will be instrumental, “this isn’t a top-down solution. Those are issues of the soul, how we treat each other how we use language.”

She said that today’s prayer service at Thanksgiving Square in Dallas is a step in the right direction, “the kind of thing that says in the face of this kind of tragedy we’re going to pull together and we’re going to have to start that process and I think Dallas recognizes that.”

The question, she said, really is “who do we want to become as a community in the future, and that’s going to take people coming together and having some difficult conversations.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings echoed Kirk’s thoughts about Dallas’ spirit going forward as he spoke at the prayer service today: I believe this city will be better and see better days because of the lives that were lost last night.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Judy Wiley: 817-390-7843, @judygwiley

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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