Benny Snyder / AP
A crowd gathers at a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Friday at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
Thousands of dignitaries, historians and citizens across the nation collectively commemorated the life and legacy of fallen president John F. Kennedy 50 years to the day, and even to the moment, when he was brutally assassinated on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963.
In Dallas, amid a cold rain, heightened security clad in lime reflective vests met 5,000 ticket holders, mostly in ponchos, to the damp plaza in preparation for a stately commemoration.
The event was held adjacent to the exact spot where the 35th president of the United States was fatally wounded.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told those assembled that Kennedy's death ushered in a new generation.
"A new era dawned and another waned a half-century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas," he said. "Our collective hearts were broken."
The mayor unveiled a new addition to the monument at the plaza; the final words from the speech Kennedy was to give that day in Dallas:
We, in this country, in this generation, are — by destiny rather than by choice — the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain.”
Historian David McCullough, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, lauded Kennedy for his eloquence and enthusiasm.
"He was ambitious to make it a better world and so were we," he said. "He was an optimist, and he said so, but there was no side stepping reality in what he said. He spoke to the point and with confidence. He knew words matter. His words changed lives. His words changed history."
INTERACTIVE: ‘Everything changed’: Remembering JFK, 50 years past
Cities across the country followed suit in paying tribute to the late president.
The Boston Globe reprinted its front page from the morning after the president, a native son, was murdered. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum had a day-long docket of events which included a display of the American flag which once draped Kennedy's coffin.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Arlington National Cemetery just before sunrise on Friday. Holder spent several minutes bowing his head before the graves of John F. Kennedy, his wife Jackie and two deceased Kennedy children.
Social media was ablaze with the hashtag #JFK and Twitter users were re-tweeting quotes and comments from Kennedy's most memorable speeches.
President Barack Obama ordered that all flags be flown at half-staff in remembrance of Kennedy.
First published November 22 2013, 10:58 AM