DALLAS — It was the same time, 12:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22. It was the same place, downtown Dallas.
But 50 years later, the thousands of people who filled Dealey Plaza weren't there to cheer but to remember in quiet sadness the young, handsome president with whom Dallas will always be "linked in tragedy."
The solemn ceremony presided over by Mayor Mike Rawlings was the first time the city had organized an official Kennedy anniversary event, issuing 5,000 free tickets and erecting a stage with video screens.
Somber remembrances extended from Dallas to the shores of Cape Cod, with moments of silence, speeches by historians and, above all, simple reverence for a time and a leader long gone.
"We watched the nightmarish reality in our front yard," Rawlings told the crowd, which assembled just steps from the Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald fired from the sixth floor at Kennedy's open-top limousine. "Our president had been taken from us, taken from his family, taken from the world."
Two generations later, the assassination still stirs quiet sadness in the baby boomers who remember it as the beginning of a darker, more cynical time.
"A new era dawned and another waned a half-century ago, when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas," Rawlings told the crowd that gathered under gray skies and in near-freezing temperatures. The mayor said the slaying prompted Dallas to "turn civic heartbreak into hard work" and helped the city mature into a more tolerant, welcoming metropolis.
The slain president "and our city will forever be linked in tragedy, yes," Rawlings said. "But out of tragedy, an opportunity was granted to us: how to face the future when it's the darkest and uncertain."