"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans".
Immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, AP General Manager Wes Gallagher asked his best writers to create a memorial volume. [Saul Pett, Sid Moody, Hugh Mulligan and Tom Henshaw worked quickly to produce the instant bestseller The Torch is Passed. They dedicated it to those who might one day find, in their words, 'an insight, a wisdom, and a workable moral out of these events which so far elude us who lived them'.
For this account we have drawn freely upon the published text.
11:37 a.m. Dallas time, Friday November 22nd 1963, Love Field. The door of the cabin opened and the President and First Lady of the United States emerged. They smiled. The sun smiled. They hustled forward to touch, fleetingly, the writhing arms of the happy throng. The welcomers were doing their best to give a big Texas 'Hi y'all' to John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his radiant wife Jacqueline. Those in back who couldn't quite elbow their way through the milling mob to touch the President's hand, or even his dark grey suit, held small box cameras overhead hoping to catch something of that famous critical grin. The pros with their electronic flash guns scurried backwards like Burden crabs for 'just one more, Mr. President, just one more'. Someone gave Jacqueline Kennedy a bouquet of flowers: blood red roses.
11:52. The motorcade rolled into the heart of Dallas, shouts and cheers rolled and echoed back and forth, mingling with the raucous rumble of the motorcycle escort and their occasional backfires as they jockeyed to keep pace. Newsman riding in a bus back in the procession thought, all in all, it was a good show for Kennedy. The sun glared through the din as the motorcade went down Main Street at 10 or 15 miles an hour. Mrs. Kennedy noted the uproar of the crowds and that persistent sun, but she couldn't take time now to put on sunglasses because she had to wave.
At 12:20 p.m., the Dallas Bureau of the Associated Press was its usual noisy self. Chief of Bureau Bob Johnson, feeling good, had left the trunk wire and had walked into the adjacent Times Herald newsroom. As he was returning to his desk, staffer Dick McMurray started to tell Johnson something. Just as executive editor Felix McKnight of the Times Herald yelled to Bob: "We hear the President has been shot, but we haven't confirmed it".
Johnson raced for his typewriter and hurriedly typed out the slug and dateline for a bulletin. He had just reached the dash that follows the AP logo type when the phone rang. It was Stafford James W. [Hawkins?] on duty as a photographer several blocks from the office. [Hawkins?] had just run down into the Elm Street underpass, beating the motorcade. The President's car turned from Houston onto Elm between [Hawkins?] and the Texas school book depository. [Hawkins?] was using a long-focus lens and was afraid that he'd let the presidential car get to close, the image would be too big. He released the shutter while the car was about 30 feet away.
At the instant, Kennedy - with a bullet through his back - raised his left arm convulsively. Looking through the viewfinder, [Hawkins?] didn't at first realize what was happening. As he advanced his film, the presidential car rolled past and another bullet tore out the back of the President's head.
'Bob' shouted [Hawkins?], the president has been shot!'
'Ike, how do you know?'
'I saw it. There was blood on his face. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed him and cried, 'Oh no!' The motorcade raced onto the freeway'.
'Ike, you saw that?'
'Yes, I was shooting the pictures and then I saw it'.
With the phone cradled to his ear, Johnson's fingers raced.
Bulletin: Dallas, November 22nd. President Kennedy was shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy. She cried, 'Oh no!'. The motorcade sped on.
An agent in the president's car grabbed a radio telephone: 'let's go straight to the nearest hospital' he shouted to police up ahead. The presidential car, a 1961 Lincoln, broke out of line and screeched off at speeds reaching 70 mph, rounding some corners on two wheels. It fled toward the hospital.
Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who had jumped aboard the back of the car, shepherded them with another agent who had been riding up front. AP White House correspondent Jack Bell jumped out just as the cars wheeled and stopped in front of the emergency entrance.
'I saw Mrs. Kennedy weeping, trying to hold her husband's head up. For an instant I stopped and stared into the back seat. Stretched out, at full length, lay the president. motionless. On the front seat lay the soft felt hat the President carried often, but seldom wore. Beside it in mute comradeship was the wide-brimmed Texas-style hat that Connolly wore. Three twisted and torn roses lay in a pool of blood. On the floor beside them was a tattered bouquet of Asters'.
Inside the emergency room Jacqueline Kennedy kissed her husband and took a ring from her finger and placed it on one of his. This was an Irish custom: together in life, together in death. She stood erect again. 'Thank you for taking care of the President', she told Father Huber, who had just administered last rites.
The flash came at 1:32 PM:
Dallas. Two priests who were with Kennedy say he is dead of bullet wounds.
In the 1st 12 hours after the assassination, the AP moved 219 stories totalling more than 63,000 words. In the first four days, more than a quarter-million words were moved from 133 datelines. And for the 1st 24 hours, [?] three pictures were the only ones
Although the Associated Press did on that day what it had been created to do, it was a day unlike any other before or since. Working through days of grief and horror, New York editors demanded the reporting to be preserved so that, as the President had asked on his inauguration, a new generation might learn.