(Scott Garbe is the writer of The Kennedy Suite. He will be posting a series of blogs about the writing of the Suite, it is a fascinating journey and definitely worth following along…make sure that you check back in every now and then)
“Barging in” was a common method of arrival for Lee Oswald throughout his brief life. Whether it was confronting U.S officials in Moscow on Halloween 1959 with his wish to renounce his citizenship and remain in Russia or the fatal imposition of his will from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository in November of 1963, you never saw him coming; he simply appeared at your elbow.
My experience was no different.
It had been years since an encounter with a series of JFK assassination photos had left me with a palpable sense of vulnerability as a young boy. I was now a teacher, immersed in my first assignment teaching English at a dynamic international school in Monterrey, Mexico. In the interim, books, films and documentaries exploring innumerable JFK conspiracy theories had flooded the market, assailing the credibility of the Warren Report until its single bullet theory became the Magic Bullet Theory – a cultural/historical punch line.
In between lesson plans and theatrical productions I consumed what I could, but the notion of giving artistic expression to that initial loss of innocence and the layers of information acquired since would only begin to formulate itself when an additional assignment arrived on my desk. I was asked to take on the publication of our school’s yearbook, and my training would require me to travel to Dallas, Texas.
It was an incredible experience to find myself in the physical location that had occupied such a profoundly formative place in my imagination. Standing on the infamous grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, moving quietly behind its picket fence, walking the wooden floor of the warehouse where Lee Oswald had methodically constructed his nest of cardboard boxes in preparation for the President’s arrival, and finally looking down from the sixth floor window with my own eyes – the compact geography and humanity that had been missing in my experience of the event settled on me.
I had understood that the historic ramifications of President Kennedy’s assassination were epic in their sweep, but I had not appreciated the intimacy of the violence that had taken place, the intrusive cruelty that occurred as one human being reached for the life of another – and took it. In that moment, I also came to understand how the power of that violation, caught second-hand in a photograph, could lay hold of a young boy’s sense of security – and break it.
And there at my elbow, unannounced, was Lee Oswald.
He had barged in, and the journey that was to become The Kennedy Suite had begun.
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