It was 37 degrees and a canopy of dense, gray clouds hung low over Dealey Plaza. Still, most of the 5,000 ticketed guests showed up, some covering their dark suits with clear plastic ponchos that ceremony organizers handed out.
The threat of thunderstorms canceled a performance by musicians in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, as well as a commemorative flyover.
But powerful words and voices marked the 50th anniversary of a tragedy with hope.
Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas offered a prayer as he stood beneath a 50-foot banner that bore the likeness of JFK. He thanked God for moving Dallas beyond the dark stain that gave it the title "City of Hate."
“You turned our sorrow into a firm commitment to move forward,” he prayed. “You turned our grief into a resolve to refashion our city to a place where life flourishes and true love abounds.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called the assassination “a day when hope and hatred collided.” He said the remembrance was an opportunity to remember a man who gave Dallas a gift that will not be squandered.
Rawlings said: “He and our city will forever be linked in tragedy, yes. But out of that tragedy an opportunity was granted to us -- a chance to learn how to face the future when it’s the darkest and most uncertain. How to hold high the torch even when the flame flickers and threatens to go out."
Rev. Zan Holmes, pastor emeritus of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, continued the theme of learning from the past with his prayer. Fifty years ago, he was among the city leaders invited to a presidential luncheon that Kennedy would never attend.
“Send us forth to claim the brand new future you continue to offer us beyond our tragedies and triumphs,” Holmes prayed.
Those who remembered where they were at the fateful moment -- and others not yet born -- listened as historian David McCullough read from some of President Kennedy’s speeches.
Video screens provided a close-up of the new 13-foot plaque at Dealey Plaza. It’s emblazoned with words from the Dallas speech President Kennedy had planned to give at the Dallas Trade Mart after his motorcade traveled though downtown.
Rawlings says he hopes the JFK remembrance will help the world see Dallas as it is today.
“Hopefully," he said, "we’ve turned the page today and we can go forward here in Dallas in the 21st century."