It was sunny in Dallas when Air Force One touched down at Love Field shortly before noon. Originally, the forecast had been for cool weather, so Jackie was dressed in a pink wool suit and a matching pillbox hat. When he heard the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm, the president requested that the top be removed from his motorcade car, claiming he wanted to show Jackie off to all the Texans.
The presidential motorcade left Love Field and headed toward the Trade Mart where Kennedy was scheduled to speak. One of Kennedy's aides, Dave Powers, instructed Jackie to wave and make eye contact with spectators on her side of the car — if she and the president both looked in the same direction, it would be a wasted opportunity. They drove through the streets of Dallas in the back of the open car, with Texas Governor John Connally and his wife in the front. It was so bright that Jackie put on her sunglasses, but Jack told her to take them off. Those were the last words he would ever say to her.
SHE SAID …
“Every time we got off the plane that day, three times they gave me the yellow roses of Texas. But in Dallas they gave me red roses. I thought how funny, red roses — so all the seat was full of blood and red roses.”
As the motorcade proceeded through Dealey Plaza, Jackie heard a terrible noise and initially assumed it was a motorcycle backfiring. She heard Governor Connally cry out, and then she saw Jack turn toward her, his hand to his throat. She later recalled he looked puzzled and then slumped forward. According to the official record, the first bullet entered the back of Kennedy's neck, exited through his throat and struck Connally, who was sitting in the front seat. The second bullet took off a large portion of the president's head. Videos and photographs show Jackie climbing out onto the trunk of the car. Later, she claimed to have no recollection of it. The motorcade sped to the Parkland Hospital with Jackie cradling her husband's head in her lap the entire way. She recalled attempting to hold the top of his head down to stop the bleeding and prevent the brain from leaking out. She knew, though, it was a futile gesture. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was dead.
After doctors officially pronounced the president dead, Jackie spent time with his body and put her wedding ring in Jack's casket. Heading back to Air Force One to accompany the body back to Washington, she refused to change out of her bloodied clothes, insisting the nation see exactly what had been done to her husband. The photograph of her standing next to Lyndon Johnson as he is sworn in as president on Air Force One was nothing short of shattering.
Jacqueline Kennedy stands by Lyndon Johnson as Judge Sarah T. Hughes administers the presidential oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, Texas, 1963
Photo Credit: Cecil Stoughton, White House/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston