Harold Norman was only twenty six years old on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was shot. The young African-American was an amiable fellow with a ready smile. An order-filler for the Texas School Book Depository, Harold routinely shared a myriad of jokes with fellow employees to help the day go by.
As JFK’s motorcade was scheduled to approach the Depository, located at the intersection of Elm and Houston Streets, Harold was joined by co-workers James “Junior” Jarman and Bonnie Ray Williams, all of whom planned on viewing the passing procession from open fifth-floor windows at the southeast corner of the building. In a crouched position, Harold stationed himself at the corner window, while Williams and Jarman knelt at the windows immediately right of him. It was the lunch hour and the three men had the choice of either standing with other employees who had congregated downstairs at the Depository’s main entrance, or having the entire upper floor to themselves. The latter option was a way to avoid the crowds below and, as JFK’s driver would be required to make a sharp turn from Houston to Elm Street beneath them, the commanding, bird’s-eye view each anticipated having of President and Mrs. Kennedy seemed ideal.
The motorcade finally reached Dealey Plaza. Sure enough, Harold, Bonnie Ray, and Junior were exhilarated with the panoramic sight of the handsome JFK and Jackie seated in an open blue Lincoln Continental, smiling and waving to the crowds at curbside.
“The weather,” Harold recalled decades later, “was picture-perfect; and I was surprised at how sandy-colored President Kennedy’s hair was.”
The presidential limousine had no sooner negotiated a slow turn onto Elm Street when, suddenly, three shots rang out!
The Texas School Book Depository had been built as a warehouse in 1901. The ribs in its antiquated wooden floors were wide enough in some areas to detect conversations from co-workers on stories above and below.
The first report was loud – too loud — followed closely by a second burst, then a brief delay, and finally a third explosion, all approximately ten seconds in duration. The windows trembled with the reverberations. Stunned, Harold was certain someone was shooting directly above him. The upper floors of the building shook as motes of white powdery-like dust descended upon Bonnie Ray’s head. What the three men heard overhead was unmistakable. Gunfire! –accompanied by the click-click sounds of a rifle’s bolt action. Ejected shell hulls were heard bouncing on the floor above with a ping. To Harold, who was experienced at firing a rifle, the ear-splitting resonance briefly reminded him of a segment from the popular ABC-TV television series “Combat!” He excitedly pointed upward and exclaimed, “Listen!” Bonnie Ray gasped, “No bullshit!” “I can hear the shells being ejected!” Harold urgently shouted.
The trio’s senses fired on all cylinders; their pulses, and minds, racing. What villain is on the sixth floor? Why would he want to harm President Kennedy? This can’t be happening! Harold, Junior, and Bonnie Ray, …