By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
As they walked through the Sixth Floor Museum on Nov. 13, history students from Bishop Lynch High School got their first tangible glimpse of what happened on Nov. 22, 1963, a day remembered as a painful part of Dallas’ history.
“It was an eerie kind of feeling because you were witnessing what was happening and what went on back then,” said Gil Garcia, a junior. “It was kind of surreal to see how they found the evidence; how the boxes they found near the Sixth Floor window were all in place when President Kennedy died.”
Each year, the school brings its students to Dallas’ most-famous and most-visited historical landmark.
This year, as city officials organized events to commemorate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the visit was especially meaningful to the students.
Junior Ashtyn Zapletal said she felt transported back to that fateful day, standing in the midst of history.
“Just seeing it in the book is one thing, but seeing it in person, when it’s right in front of you is a lot different,” Zapletal said. “To see all the different artifacts was a lot different than what I’m used to. I’ve only heard about it, but now getting to see it was more special.”
History teacher Bruce Kirsch said he brings his students to the museum often because it serves as an important resource for them as they study American history.
“Dallas was, unfortunately, where President Kennedy was assassinated,” Kirsch said. “But to have this museum here, I think it’s important that the students can feel it; they can be where history took place. There is some history that took place in their own backyard.”
After visiting the museum, the students were treated to a brief question-and-answer session with Stephen Fagin, the Sixth Floor Museum’s associate curator and oral historian. After the Texas School Book Depository vacated the building in 1970, Fagin said, there was a movement in Dallas to demolish it. In 1977, Dallas County bought the building.
Twelve years later, the Sixth Floor Museum opened.
“Now, the museum is providing an opportunity for people to explore who John F. Kennedy was and why he meant something to so many people around the world,” said Fagin, during a response to a student’s question. “The idea was to provide a place for the public to come and learn about these events in the proper context, then look out the Sixth Floor Window and determine for themselves whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or whether there was a conspiracy.”
Kirsch said he wants his students to leave the museum with a sense of emotion and understanding of history.
“I was old enough to remember it, but certainly for someone who might be in their 60s, Nov, 22, 1963, was a defining moment in their life, much like Pearl Harbor was to my parents and Sept. 11 was to many young people today,” Kirsch said. “I think certainly the legacy of President Kennedy is a question mark, depending on who one asks and one’s age, but I also think it’s important to look at what could have been with a second Kennedy administration. We’ll never know.”