Shelby: Fifty years ago today marked one of the darkest moments in American history – the day President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. As Keith Kocinski tells us, it changed our country forever.
Keith: Young, handsome and charming. More like a celebrity than a politician, John Fitzgerald Kennedy won the hearts of the American people and became the 35th president in 1961.
President Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Keith: At the age of 43, Kennedy was the youngest president ever elected in American history.
Schieffer: Suddenly we had this young, handsome president and this gorgeous wife and these beautiful children. And he is the first president that we came to really know, and we came to know his family. And that was because of television.
Keith: Two years into his term, on November 22nd, 1963, President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline flew to Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was hoping to get support for the Democratic Party and begin his campaign for re-election.
Schieffer: In those days, presidents didn’t travel very much and it was a major event.
Keith: I am in Dallas, Texas. And I am just feet away from where President John F. Kennedy was shot twice by Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald stood in a window in that building right there, formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository. And this all happened as the president’s motorcade traveled down this very road fifty years ago.
Reporter: And here is the president of the United States, and what a crowd. What a tremendous welcome he is getting now.
Keith: Thousands had lined up on Dallas streets to greet President Kennedy as he and the first lady waved from a convertible. They turned into Dealey Plaza and at 12:30pm…
Reporter: It appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route.
Keith: Three gunshots. The president was shot twice. The Texas governor sitting in front of him was hit once. Kennedy was rushed to the hospital and then…
Reporter: President Kennedy died at 1pm Central Standard Time.
Keith: The nation was distraught.
Schieffer: People were crying. People were just walking around with a blank look on their face.
American citizen: I feel like someone in my own family died. I just can’t believe it.
Keith: Hours later, Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old ex-Marine was arrested for shooting a police officer just 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot.
Reporter: Did you kill the president?
Oswald: No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet.
Keith: Oswald was later charged with killing the president. He had a history of anti-government beliefs and had lived in the Soviet Union, America’s biggest enemy at the time.
Reporter: Now, here is the gun that police say was used to kill the president.
Keith: As news spread, Lyndon B. Johnson was quickly sworn in on an airplane, becoming the 36th president of the United States.
It was a national tragedy. And although many have tried to guess why Oswald shot the president, he never stood trial because just two days after his arrest, while being transferred to a county jail, he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
Reporter: Oswald has been shot.
Keith: Oswald’s murder ignited dozens of conspiracy theories. Did Oswald really act alone? Or was it some bigger plot by the CIA or Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba?
Shenon: Fidel Castro knows, in the fall of 1963, that the Kennedy administration is trying to kill him. And so it was an obvious suspicion that Castro would be involved in Kennedy’s death.
Keith: A commission was appointed to investigate Kennedy’s assassination.
Reporter: The seven members of the Warren Commission…
Shenon: In September 1964, after ten months of investigation, the Warren Commission determined there was no evidence of a conspiracy and that it appeared Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman in Dealey Plaza.
Keith: In the many investigations since, no one has found any credible evidence of a conspiracy. So why, according to a recent CBS News poll, do a majority of Americans still believe Oswald did not act alone?
Shenon: It’s just a difficult concept for folks that one young, unstable man with a $21 rifle could change the world. And yet it happened.
Keith: It happened, and our country was never the same.
Reporter: John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, leaving the White House for the last time.
Schieffer: So many parts of our culture changed because of that weekend. I truly believe it was the weekend that America lost its innocence.
Keith: Keith Kocinski, Channel One News.
Shelby: To learn more about President Kennedy’s legacy, head over to Channelone.com.