We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963
by Allen Childs, MD
Read: Sept. 11-12, 2013
Challenge: Eclectic Reader Challenge
Yearly count: 39
There are few days in American history so immortalized in public memory as November 22, 1963, the date of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Adding to the wealth of information about this tragic day is We Were There, a truly unique collection of firsthand accounts from the doctors and staff on scene at the hospital where JFK was immediately taken after he was shot.
With the help of his former fellow staff members at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Allen Childs recreates the horrific day, from the president’s arrival in Dallas to the public announcement of his death. Childs presents a multifaceted and sentimental reflection on the day and its aftermath.
In addition to detailing the sequence of events that transpired around JFK’s death, We Were There offers memories of the First Lady, insights on conspiracy theories revolving around the president’s assassination, and recollections of the death of Lee Harvey Oswald, who succumbed two days later in the same hospital where his own victim was pronounced dead.
A compelling, emotional read, We Were There pays tribute to a critical event in American modern history—and to a man whose death was mourned like no other.
Twice in a forty-five hour, thirty-one minute timeframe, Parkland Hospital was the center of worldwide attention. It was the temporary seat of the United States government, as well as the state of Texas. Our thirty-fifth president died in Trauma Room 1. At that moment, the ascendency of the thirty-sixth president of the United States occurred at Parkland. Two days later, it was the site of death of the president’s accused assassin. So reported a Parkland Hospital office memorandum dated November 27, 1963.
And we were there. (p. 8)
I am a JFK junkie. I am obsessed with everything about him, his family, presidency and assassination. Yeah, I’m a weirdo! I’ve been gobbling up everything I can get my hands on this year – and there’s a lot since it’s the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
This memoir is a collection of experiences from doctors who were at Parkland the day of the assassination. I don’t think I have ever read anything that comes from the actual doctors themselves. I found it very interesting to read their stories. But I must admit, being a non-medical person, it was very difficult at times for me to follow things. It became quite technical medically at certain points. And another thing, it seemed to be very repetitive. Most of the doctors had pretty much the same exact experience. But really, it’s an interesting book. It’s very emotional.
I think part of the reason that I’m so intrigued by the JFK assassination is really because of all the conspiracies. There are tons of conspiracies. Single bullet? Multiple shooters? CIA? Cuba? The list goes on and on.
Conspiracy theories have continued to rage for fifty years since that day, and they were not put to rest by the Warren Commission’s conclusion that there was a single shooter and a single bullet that killed President Kennedy and injured Governor Connally. The doctors at Parkland were the only ones who saw the neck wound before the emergency tracheotomy, and they were unanimous that the neck wound was an entry wound. In time most, but not all, no longer would believe this. (The bolding was done by me, p. 10)
If you ask people who are old enough to remember the assassination, they can almost always tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news (kind of like my generation with 9/11). I can only imagine what it would have been like for the doctors and staff of that hospital.
Some people started crying and sobbing uncontrollably – others like myself just stood there dazed, fighting back the tears. No one moved for a minute or so. (Jed Rosenthal, MD, p. 24)
I do want to leave you with a quote from the book. I think it speaks volumes about exactly what the doctors did for the President that day. For if you read this book, you will be amazed at what all they did do for him in Trauma Room 1.
I was witness to the frenzied resuscitative efforts displayed by the chiefs of all trauma-related services who had been called to the scene. As soon as he was placed from the gurney onto the emergency table, it was obvious from his ghastly head wound that he was DOA, and regardless of all the impressive medical acumen and experience present, there was no hope of restoring his life. He was flatlined from the onset. (Robert Duchouquette, MD, p. 62-63)
There’s not much else to say about this book. If you are a history buff or an assassination nut like I am, I highly recommend this book. It’s a short and quick read, but it’s very interesting and emotional.