The Last Journey of the Kennedys

Jacqueline Kennedy's personal account offers a poignant glimpse into the human side of history.
Assassination of John F. Kennedy

November 22, 1963. Jacqueline Kennedy arrives in Dallas with her husband, President John F. Kennedy, for a campaign visit. Less than an hour after their arrival, in the center of the city, a sniper will end the president’s life with two bullets. The text that follows is a fictional account created from documents and historical sources.

by Jacqueline Kennedy
First Lady of the United States of America

It’s only 11:44 in the morning. What a short trip! Only fifteen minutes have passed since our takeoff from Fort Worth Airport and Air Force One has already arrived in Dallas. An endless electoral campaign begins at the end of which, if everything goes according to plan, on November 3, 1964, my husband will be re-elected president of the United States.

In September, John has already visited nine states in less than a week, but he and his advisors have decided that now is the time to start pushing again in view of the elections. Texas is a key state for electoral victory, but it is traditionally hostile to Democrats, and John has made it his mission to win here next year.

And so, here we are. Yesterday was a tiring day: three hours from Washington to San Antonio, then forty-five minutes to Houston and another hour to Fort Worth. In each of these cities, endless motorcades with thousands of people following, meetings with local politicians and businessmen, boring fundraising events for the campaign, and endless greetings to hundreds of people, until our arrival at the hotel late at night.

Today, the script will be almost identical, but Jack is happy in circumstances like these. This morning at 8:45 am, we went down to the hotel parking lot to greet the thousands of people who were waiting for us, despite the heavy rain that was falling incessantly. Jack once again showed off his unsurpassed charisma with an improvised speech in front of the crowd.

Away from Washington, he is a different man: “It’s a different country,” he is used to saying. His mood changes and he feels really comfortable shaking hands, talking to anyone who approaches him. He looks healthy and happy, and his chronic back pain has improved with all the swimming he does in the White House pool. He is definitely doing better.

At 9:25 am, we are at another, more formal breakfast, on our campaign schedule. It was attended by Fort Worth businessmen; then we hurried to the airport to fly here. A new day begins: another round of greetings, another motorcade that will escort us through the crowd to the Dallas Market Center, a large shopping center where another electoral event awaits us.

At least the weather is better than in Fort Wordh. There are so many people, everyone wants to greet us and talk to us. The presidential campaign four years ago was extremely boring, running around the villages of Wisconsin and Nebraska, hoping that there would be someone willing to listen to us and shake our hand. Now, everyone loves us. They gave me a beautiful bouquet of roses, I’ll put it next to me in the limousine.

“Good morning, Governor Connally. How is Nellie?” John Connally is the governor of Texas, a Democrat. He and his wife will occupy the front seats of the vehicle that will take us to the center of the city. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson will follow us in another vehicle.

We leave immediately, in less than an hour the president and I will have to meet the elite of Texas society, conservatives who will look down on us, arrogant millionaires and their wealthy Republican wives.

John is impeccable in his dark suit, and I… I have to be myself, polite and elegant among all those women wearing mink coats and diamond bracelets. My pink wool Chanel with a blue collar will be a touch of color among all the gray tones of the dresses of conservative wives. Simple and elegant, perfect to attract the attention of the press.

I know that today all eyes will be on me. It is practically my first public appearance since the birth of my beautiful baby, Patrick, who died just two days later, on August 7. I hope the warmth of everyone present can make us forget this tragedy that has struck us.

We must be the perfect family to win the favor of Texas society, always conservative and attentive to family dynamics. The leading Republican candidate, Nelson Rockefeller, blew away any chance of victory last May, after divorcing his wife to marry a much younger woman.

We arrive in Dallas. Main Street is full of people, thousands of people on both sides of the street cheering us on. “What a wonderful success, isn’t it, Governor Connally? Next year we’ll win in Texas and go back to the White House and she’ll be re-elected governor of the state.”

“Jack, look, everyone is cheering for you! What a madness!” It doesn’t seem possible that there is a single person in the United States who could wish us any harm. Should we fear the radical right-wingers? I am always worried about my husband’s safety. There are people he doesn’t like who are willing to do anything, but Jack has absolute confidence in the Secret Service men who protect him and us. So why worry?

Dealey Plaza, 12:29 PM. We have spent ten minutes walking 1,500 meters through a crowd of people who want to see us. We turn right, towards a brick building, the Texas School Book Depository, topped by a huge clock. The hands are at 12:30 when the car turns a corner and turns onto Elm Street, in a slight descent.

We wave to the people cheering on the right and… but what a bang! “Did you hear Jack?” Oh my God! My husband is bleeding from the throat. “Oh God! They shot my husband! I love you, Jack, can you hear me? I love you!”…


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