By Mick Krever, CNN
On the day that the American president was shot, the Dallas sky started cloudy but soon turned a brilliant blue.
It was a “wonderful November day,” recalls Hugh Aynesworth, who was a young reporter at the Dallas Morning News.
Incredibly, Aynesworth was witness to all three major events that frightful November: The president’s brutal assassination, the arrest of his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Oswald’s own murder by Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby.
He has written a book about his experience, “November 22, 1963: Witness to History.”
Aynesworth hadn’t been assigned to cover the trip of President John F. Kennedy – he was on the science and aerospace beat – but he decided to go down to Dealey Plaza just the same.
“You don’t see a president that often in your city, and I just wanted to see,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
The plaza was full of excited onlookers, packed “six, seven, eight deep” with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the charismatic young president in his open-top limousine.
“As they passed by me, I saw Jackie was waving and so pleased,” he said. “And a lady behind me said, ‘Oh she’s wearing my dress’ – they had the same color dress on.”
“That made her day – momentarily, anyway.”
President Kennedy’s motorcade had passed Aynesworth when he heard what sounded like a motorcycle backfire.
“A few seconds later – two or three – a shot, and then another shot two or three seconds after that.”
It was then that he realized they were rifle shots.
“It caused complete pandemonium almost immediately because nobody knew who was shooting, how many people were shooting, or where they were shooting from.”
The crowd’s euphoria had been brought ruthlessly back to earth. People started running into each other, Aynesworth said.
“I didn’t have a pencil or paper since I didn’t have an assignment to be there,” he recalled, “so I found a little boy that had a big jumbo pencil, and I sort of took it from him – gave him a couple quarters and moved on.”
“And I had two utility bills in my back pocket that I hadn’t mailed, so that gave me something to write on, and I started interviewing many, many people around the repository building” from which Oswald took his fateful shots.
The fact that Aynesworth would later be witness at the movie theater where Oswald was arrested – and after that in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters when Oswald was shot while being led through a crowd of journalists – was “pure, dumb luck,” he said.
“There’s no kind of quality of journalism here, I just happened to be there,” he told Amampour. “A couple of hunches along the way, but really it was just lucky.”
The assassination of President Kennedy, more than almost any other historical event save the moon landing, is enveloped by conspiracy theories, and the idea that something just isn’t quite right with the story we have been told.
Aynesworth, a first-hand witness, has no tolerance for it.
He’d “love to” break the story of a conspiracy, he said, and keeps an “open mind, but there are no facts.”
“I don’t care how much you want it, need it, or believe it – at some point you have to be honest and say, ‘I don’t have it.’”