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Sixth Floor Opens To The Public 25 Years After Assassination

February 20, 1989

DALLAS (AP) _ Prayers and tears marked the opening Monday of a museum on the sixth floor of the old Texas School Book Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald is believed to have fired the shots that killed President John F. Kennedy.

Some came to forget that November day a quarter century ago when Kennedy was assassinated. Others came to recall the legacy and hope of his administration.

″Our purpose is not to preserve the memory of that death. ... It is not in our power to preserve what already lives so powerfully any more than we could erase or escape this history,″ Dallas County Judge Lee F. Jackson said at the opening ceremony of The Sixth Floor museum.

″The lessons of history found here will be passed, like a torch, to all generations.″

The Rev. G. James Christopher of the St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church said: ″About 26 years ago America was wounded. But today we stand here whole again.″

Several hundred invited guests attended the opening ceremony on Monday, President’s Day, then viewed the collection examining Kennedy’s life and death.

The exhibit in what is now the Dallas County Administration Building contains 350 photographs, 30 artifacts, a 30-minute audio tour and six films running a total of 40 minutes. It was organized by the Dallas County Historical Foundation.

Packed with people, the room was nevertheless quiet, save for some small talk and a couple of children asking questions.

Jeremy Livingston, 4, looked up at his father, Jerome Livingston, a computer programmer from New York. ″Why would anyone want to kill a president?″ the boy asked.

For many the tears fell only when they came to the window where investigators said Oswald ate his lunch on Nov. 22, 1963, and waited for the presidential motorcade as it moved through streets lined with cheering crowds.

″I guess that’s when it hit me,″ said Danny Veno, 33, of Dallas. ″I got a big lump in my throat when I saw this window. I’ve waited a long time to see this. A long, long time.″

That corner window is walled off by glass. Stacks of books and boxes are arranged just as they were more than 25 years ago. Visitors gathered at windows a few feet away and stared down at Elm Street, sharing the view of the sniper.

″It took me back, that view, it really did,″ said Pat Radmacher, 38, of Grandbury.

Clifford Carr, 47, of Spring Lake, N.J., said he planned a business trip to Dallas to coincide with the exhibit’s opening and his son’s spring break. He and his 14-year-old son Jason walked along Dealy Plaza and the grassy knoll, which figures in many assassination conspiracy theories, after visiting The Sixth Floor.

″It kind of feels like 1963 all over again,″ Clifford Carr said.

Dallas residents have debated whether there should be official recognition of the Kennedy assassination in the city where he was killed.

The museum opening, Christopher said, shows Dallas has ″finally reconciled the pain of the past with the promise of hope for the future.″

People began lining up outside more than two hours before the museum’s opening. Cindy McLendon, a local ticket agent, said 3,000 visitors were expected Monday. More than 500,000 visitors are expected annually.

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