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1963: The boy who saw the president die

Six-year-old Jeff Franzen was just yards away from President Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dealey Plaza.

He and his parents were on a trip to downtown Dallas to celebrate his mother's birthday, but they decided to stop and watch the presidential motorcade pass after being caught in heavy traffic.

The Franzens were standing at the edge of the grass area in the centre of the plaza and just in front of the car when the fatal shots were fired.

We chose to go on the centre part [of the plaza] - I think it was a big grass area - because I had a ball that day and my father and I were playing catch with it.

We waited at least a half hour, if not more. I remember the ball we were playing with went down the sewer.

In subsequent years there's been rumours and speculation there was a gunman hiding in that sewer - one of the shots could possibly have come from there.

We were on the tail end of the parade so we could hear the crowd roar increasing as it came closer to us - it was behind us and to our right up the hill.

Firecrackers

And then a flurry of activity started - they cleared the street and the police had started coming through. There was a series of motorcycles and the different cars that drove through in front of him - a couple of limos as I remember.

Then the president's car came from my right-hand side, down the slope of the road coming towards us.

It started getting exciting when I heard the pops - which I assumed at the time to be firecrackers - but turned out to be the gunshots.


" I recollect very clearly and vividly thinking it was confetti coming from the car "

Today, I don't know if it's in my memory or the fact that I've just read it over a number of years. I heard three [shots] and that's what I remember.

But it's also interesting - and I don't know if this is my recollection or just reading - that everyone heard so many different things from so many different directions.

Dealey Plaza was a canyon of office buildings so there was a lot of echoes and noise.

At the first shot the president was pretty far up to my right and everything started to get a little odd. I could sort of sense everything was a little unusual at that point.

Then with the next two shots things got very eerie.

On the second or third shot I recollect very clearly and vividly thinking it was confetti coming from the car - which as I know now was the president's head being shot.


" Shortly after the car went past us everything started going crazy "

Also at that time Mrs Kennedy started moving and she had a bunch of roses on her lap. I saw the roses moving and I saw her moving around. I had just seen this confetti and the loud popping of what seemed to be firecrackers.

Everything started speeding up. At the same time my mom started crying and my father grabbed both of us and shortly after the car went past us everything started going crazy.

The police on motorcycles started driving up into the grass on both sides of the road and the secret servicemen were jumping and running around.

And the fellow obviously tried to jump onto the back of the car and push Jackie back into her seat.

At that point the car was directly in front of us - you can see on the Zapruder film the image of my mom and dad and I standing there.

People running

Shortly after that my father took my mom and I and put us on the ground and he laid on top of us, and obviously that's a very unusual feeling for a six-year-old.

He'd been in the military and I guess was smart enough to think he was protecting us from whatever else could come.

A lot of the parade onlookers from up the hill were coming down anyway, but once the cars left a whole mass of people started running down by us.

And about that time I remember my dad saying, "We need to get out of here". And we did.

No plot

I did have an interest in the assassination years ago but I haven't in 20 years.

Dan Rather, the American broadcaster, probably summed it up best. He was in Dallas and for many years he interviewed and researched as much as he could.

And I think after about 10 or 15 years of doing it, he finally came out and said, "I just cannot find any shred of evidence of any kind of conspiracy or any grand scheme. I would love to find it as a journalist, but I just can't."

I think I gave up to. I read a lot of books but I don't think there was any big, nefarious plot.


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