Green leaves faded on crooked, spider-leg like branches.
A nation hung on the verge of peace abroad and harmony within, under a leader who symbolized growth, harmony and fertility.
But it was fall, and green had faded from the limbs in North Texas by late November 1963. Browns, oranges, yellows and warlike reds replaced lime and olive foliage. Only the Texas live oaks in the city retained their green luster. Warm autumn days and cool nights forced green leaves to fade to sugary, deep reds.
The growth and hope of a generation of Americans faded with them when a series of shots rang out in Dealey Plaza 50 years ago this Friday.
In broad daylight, under a brilliant autumn sun, as cameras rolled on the rolling motorcade, John F. Kennedy was killed. The green hope of prosperity faded from the land.
Hollow footsteps fall on gray, concrete sidewalks. Dry leaves rustle from the touch of ghost-fingered winds. White X’s taped down by theorists mark the assassination spot on worn-down streets illuminated by a waning skull-colored moon.
But what if the conspiracy to kill Kennedy had failed? The president was in the process of brokering a scale-down of U.S. military operations and soldiers in Vietnam. If successful, it could have saved the lives of almost 60,000 American soldiers. It could have saved the U.S. billions of treasury dollars spent on helicopters and bullets.
Lessening U.S. involvement in Vietnam could have prevented civil unrest and dissension that divided Americans at home and eventually escalated into the brutal violence seen at the campus of Kent State when college students protesting war were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard in 1970.
African-Americans and Catholics had a common enemy. Both were hated targets of the Ku Klux Klan. Kennedy’s survival probably would have resulted in a smoother transition during the Civil Rights Act. It might have prevented the violence seen across the South during the movement, which would have prevented the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. And the 1968 assassination of Kennedy’s brother, Robert, would also likely never have happened.
But faded leaves tumbled from branches in the fall of 1963. In the decade that followed, heroes in war overseas and leaders at home were plucked from pages of living history like ripe, red fruit.
And although, like every other year, branches sprout fresh, green foliage anew as the days grow longer, a bit of that luster remains forever lost in all the hope springing forth.
Brandon Evans is a reporter for the Messenger.