CONCORD -- After five decades, David W. Wallace spoke to the press for the first time about President John F. Kennedy's assassination Nov. 22, 1963.
Wallace's teenage view of the world turned upside down in 45 minutes when he saw the president and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy just after the president was fatally shot near the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas.
"It still impacts me today," Wallace acknowledged. "I have never spoken to the media before, but when I have shared it in conversation, people want to tell me what they were doing."
His picture appeared in some TV and print news reports of the president's arrival at Love Field in Dallas, and at Parkland Hospital. Wallace kept one of the roses left behind in the presidential limousine as a remembrance, and provided the first oral history for the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
The museum website states, "Journalists found themselves in the vortex of an unfolding story."
The same thing happened to then Samuell High School senior class officer David Wallace and three classmates.
Wallace was working on a group project about subversive organizations for an honors class, and demonstrators were expected at Love Field for the presidential plane to touch down, so his group was allowed to leave school to take photos.
Kennedy " ... knew that a relatively small but vocal group of extremists was contributing to the political tensions in Texas and would likely make its presence felt -- particularly in Dallas," according to the Kennedy Library website.
But Wallace and his friends were among the estimated 200 well-wishers at Love Field when Air Force One landed.
"It was a gloriously beautiful sunny day. We saw the airplane landing. There were no protest signs," Wallace recounted. "We were from a poor school. We had never seen anybody dressed like Jackie Kennedy. Everyone was happy, including the president and Jackie."
The excited teens chose not to go back to school as planned. They knew the presidential route and decided the best place to get a second look at the president was at the Market Hall turnoff where the motorcade would have to slow to a stop and make a right turn.
"We were the only ones there. I saw the president from eight to 10 feet away. The secret service was repositioning him at that moment," Wallace said, recalling the terrifying scene. "I had never seen a person shot before."
"The way Jackie looked when I saw her in the car ... horrified. She had just lost her baby son and now her husband was taken from her. I can't imagine what it would be like."
The teens jumped in their car and followed the motorcade to the hospital. By the time they parked and reached the entrance, the president and first lady were inside.
"My two friends, Will O'Hara and Charles Hodges, were able to go into the news conference because they had passes from helping out at football games for CBS," Wallace remembered. "That left Courtney Hodges and me standing by the limousine. I reached into the limousine to get a rose as a remembrance, and I did not know the Houston Chronicle had taken a picture of me."
Wallace described life before that afternoon as an optimistic happy high school student who played football, and had a girlfriend who would later become his wife, Cheri.
"It is easy to say that we have to listen to our hearts at some times to find truth," Wallace said. "When you are hurting, you have to talk to others. You find out on days like 9/11, Pearl Harbor and the assassination of the president, you are not immortal. You have to live in the present every minute of every day and make the world better."
He continued, "(the assassination) could have been the catalyst for the decade of violence that followed ... Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy."
Mysterious deaths and disappearances following Kennedy's assassination and Wallace's wife Cheri's concern about security convinced him to keep a low profile about that fateful day until now.
But questions and inconsistencies continued for Wallace, and the nation: How could Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald?
"Why would they clean up the car and whisk it away? Why would an inexperienced person do the autopsy and a bullet be left on the gurney?
"They saw a person carrying an instrument case on the grassy knoll," Wallace said. "That person ended up dead, and what about the cigarette butts found on the grassy knoll?
"There were always loose ends," he said. "We don't know what happened."
Even after the Warren Commission, U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, countless books and research, the death of President John F. Kennedy is still riveting.
"More people have visited the museum than have visited the Kennedy Memorial grave site," columnist George Will said to newsman Chris Wallace in a Nov. 17 interview.
Every shred of information is considered another clue to closure, or confirmation that the underlying reason for Kennedy's death was not what it appears to be.
"Thousands of pages of documents remain withheld, and should be released," a Nov. 3, Washington Post editorial noted.
"It is the great mystery of all time," actor Rob Lowe, who portrayed JFK in a National Geographic TV movie version of the book, "Killing Kennedy," said this week.
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.
What: Tribute to John F. Kennedy memorial event, free and open to the public; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and other local officials invited to attend
When: 10-11 a.m. Nov. 22
Where: John F. Kennedy University front lobby, 100 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill
Information: Call 925-969-3300