50 years on, nation pauses to remember John F. Kennedy’s death

Watch “The Assassination of President Kennedy” on CNN TV Friday, November 22 at 10 p.m. ET.

Story highlights

NEW: "He and our city will forever be linked," Dallas mayor says

Mike Rawlings says "hope and hatred collided" in Dallas 50 years ago

Moment of silence, bells, mark moment 50 years ago Kennedy was shot

Wreath laid in Boston; House prayer invokes Kennedy's memory

Dallas CNN  — 

Five decades after it served as the backdrop for a nation’s grief and disbelief, Dallas’ Dealey Plaza took center stage once again Friday as Americans commemorated the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

“A new era dawned and another waned a half century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in his remarks commemorating Kennedy’s death.

Rawlings then read the final words of the speech Kennedy was to deliver that day. That was followed by a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m., the time Kennedy was shot a few feet from where Rawlings spoke.

Bells tolled, and after a brief pause, cadets from the Naval Academy sang “America the Beautiful.” Historian David McCullough read excerpts from famous Kennedy speeches.

Some 5,000 invited guests were expected to attend the commemorative events, which was bookended by bagpipers – a JFK favorite – playing under a spitting gray sky.

The tightly choreographed and secured event was the culmination of a series of commemorations Friday, including wreath-laying events in Kennedy’s home town of Boston and at his Arlington National Cemetery gravesite.

In Washington, where flags flew at half-staff over the Capitol and White House, Kennedy’s last living sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith, participated in the Arlington wreath-laying. Earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the gravesite.

And in the House of Representatives, where Kennedy served from 1947 to 1953, the Rev. John Robert Skeldon of Fort Worth, Texas, reminded lawmakers in his opening prayers that “in commemorating such a one whose life and presidency were cut short, we do so not to sow in tears, as the psalmist says, but rather to reap with shouts of joy.”

“Help us, Lord God, to make the late President’s inaugural vision our own so that together as fellow Americans we may ‘ask not what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country,’” Skeldon prayed, invoking Kennedy’s famous words.