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Somber nation marks 50th anniversary of JFK death

  • A crowd gathers before a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. President Kennedy's motorcade was passing through Dealey Plaza when shots rang out on Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo/Benny Snyder)

DALLAS — From a street in downtown Dallas to the shores of Cape Cod, a somber nation paused Friday to remember John F. Kennedy 50 years after the young, handsome president was gunned down in an open-top limousine.

A half-century later, the assassination still stirs quiet sadness in the baby boom generation that remembers it as the beginning of a darker, more cynical time. The anniversary ceremonies reflected that solemnity, with moments of silence, speeches by historians and, above all, simple reverence for a time and a leader long gone.

"A new era dawned and another waned a half-century ago, when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas," Mayor Mike Rawlings said at the largest memorial service, in Dealey Plaza, the scene of the Nov. 22, 1963, shooting.

50th Anniversary Of JFK's Death

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"We watched the nightmarish reality in our front yard. Our president had been taken from us, taken from his family, taken from the world."

Rawlings told about 5,000 people gathered under gray skies in near-freezing temperatures that the slaying prompted Dallas to "turn civic heartbreak into hard work" and helped the city to mature.

Kennedy "and our city will forever be linked in tragedy, yes," he said. "But out of tragedy, an opportunity was granted to us how to face the future when it's the darkest and uncertain."

Rawlings unveiled a plaque with remarks Kennedy was supposed to deliver later that day in Dallas. His remarks were followed a mournful tolling of bells and a moment of silence.

The plaza includes the Texas School Book Depository building, where sniper Lee Harvey Oswald perched on the sixth floor above the president's motorcade.

A stage for the memorial ceremony, just south of the depository building, was backed with a large banner showing Kennedy's profile. Video screens showed images of Kennedy with his family.

Shortly after sunrise, Attorney General Eric Holder paid his respects at Kennedy's recently refurbished grave at Arlington National Cemetery, where a British cavalry officer stood guard, bagpipes played and a flame burned steadily as it has for the last half-century.

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