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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Area man attends JFK 50th ceremony in Dallas

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  • DALLAS — Kevin Stinson was only three when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
    "I remember, I was at my grandmother's and she was watching Days of our Lives, I think, when the news bulletin came across," he said. "She told me I ran behind the chair because I knew it was something bad."
    The next thing Stinson remembers is watching the funeral on television.
    His parents bought him a book soon after called "The Torch is Passed," which included The Associated Press's accounts of Kennedy's shooting and the events that followed.
    "It was really from the point that they bought me that book that I got hooked on the Kennedy story," Stinson said. "It kind of fascinated me."
    Fifty years after the fact, Stinson found himself in Dealey Plaza to commemorate the anniversary of Kennedy's slaying. As one of only 5,000 people to receive tickets, Stinson was only one of 2,500 people from outside the Dallas area that got to see the ceremony up close.
    "It was something else," he said.
    Stinson recalls staying up late with his dad as a child to watch the news. He was always interested in what was going on in the world and had a keen interest in historical events. His fascination with the Kennedy assassination took hold and followed him through high school and even college.
    "I graduated with two degrees, one being in Social Studies," he said. "I began to teach Social Studies and history before I got into administration."
    Stinson served as a teacher in Ardmore and Lone Grove Schools. He also was a principal at Lone Grove and eventually became superintendent of Wilson Schools. His position as a history teacher gave him an opportunity to not only delve deeper into the Kennedy assassination on his own, but also to help educate his students.
    "All throughout the '90s... I was taking students from Lone Grove down to see Dealey Plaza and learn about the events of that day," he said.
    Then, ten years ago, Stinson brought his family down for the 40th anniversary.
    There was no pomp and circumstance then, only a speech from then Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, who had just released a book about possible conspiracies in the assassination plot.
    But Friday's experiences were much more than what Stinson experienced 10 years ago.
    "The City of Dallas put it on this time, and it was a completely different observation," he said. "They wanted everyone to believe that there wasn't a conspiracy, that it was solved 50 years ago with Oswald and his murder.
    "They were very adamant with their remarks (Friday), that for so many years, people have put Dallas down for what happened, but that they were a city moving forward now."
    Page 2 of 2 - One observation he made was the amount of international presence in the crowd. Just in his general area were people from France, Australia and Japan that flew to the country just for Friday's ceremony.
    "There were two stewardesses behind me that were in Chicago (Thursday) that arranged their schedules just so they could be there too," he said. "There was a lot of mixture. It really showed the impact that this event had, even 50 years later."
    But the point of Friday's ceremony was to remember the actions that took place 50 years prior. Due to weather conditions, Stinson happened to end up on the famed grassy knoll to watch the day's events.
    "I had several emotions throughout the day," he said. "One thing that stuck out to me was the ringing of the bell at 12:30. It was an eerie quietness.
    "And, because of where I was standing, thinking back about the historical implications of where I was and what happened there 50 years ago, it was amazing. I was standing right beside where the president might have been shot from."
    Friday's ceremony was far from a celebration. Stinson said there were regular quiet moments with a somber mood, similar to a funeral.
    "There was just a lot of reflecting," he said.
    Stinson toured the other historical places, such as Ruth Paine's house, which had only recently been opened up to the public, the Texas Theatre where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, Parkland Hospital where both Kennedy and Oswald were treated after each of their shootings, and the memorial marker for Dallas officer J.D. Tippit, who was shot by Oswald after Kennedy's assassination.
    Despite it being a historical fascination to him, Stinson still realizes the serious impact of what happened on that day, 50 years prior.
    "I believe this was a remembrance of a very ugly time in our nation's history," Stinson said. "I believe, though, that it also is a reminder for our nation to continue to move forward."
    @kkerrARD
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