Photographer Describes Capturing Iconic JFK Jr. Image
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It is the most famous image of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath — little John-John Kennedy, on his third birthday, saluting his father’s casket.
As CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported, the photographer, Dan Farrell, who worked for the New York Daily News for 50 years, says his memories of that November day in Washington, D.C., have not dimmed.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” said Farrell, 83.
Farrell was on a flatbed truck across the street from the cathedral where President John F. Kennedy‘s funeral Mass had just ended. He was with 20 other photographers, all of them, he says, were overwhelmed with emotion.
“It was so sad,” he said. “There wasn’t a dry eye on that flatbed, and these were all pretty much hardened journalists.”
Farrell was about 150 feet away when Kennedy’s family emerged from the cathedral. He then saw Jacqueline Kennedy lean over to talk to her son, John Jr. Farrell could read her lips.
“She told him, ‘John, salute,'” Farrell said. “At first, he didn’t salute. Then she said, ‘John-John, salute.'”
Farrell raised his camera, knowing he would have only one chance to get the picture. He said he took a deep breath to steady himself and then perfectly captured the little boy’s brave gesture.
“As soon as he started raising his hand, I let it go,” Farrell said.
And, though, Farrell was focused on the image, he still felt the enormity of what had just witnessed.
“It’s a terrible thing for a little boy to have to salute his daddy’s funeral,” he said. “It was a great tribute to the father.”
Farrell said it didn’t take long for the significance of the picture to become clear.
“As the day went on, it turned out to be the best picture of the day,” he said.
But through the years, it turned out to be so much more — an image of all time, one that was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Farrell said he’s grateful for his part in it.
“I’m certainly glad I was there to do this and capture it for history,” he said. “Life goes on.”
Video Of JFK’s Last Moments
A 13-year-old girl who took the day off from school on Nov. 22, 1963, captured the last video footage of Kennedy before he was killed.
Tina Towner Pender told CBS 2’s Vinita Nair that she was thrilled to film her own footage of the president’s motorcade as it passed.
“I was the last film of the limousine before he got shot and leading up into the Zapruder film (of Kennedy being shot),” she said.
Towner Pender said after she turned her camera off, “I’m told it was about two seconds (before) the first gun shot.”
“It was confusing,” she recalled of the moments immediately after the shots were fired. “People were yelling and running in all directions, and there were sirens blaring everywhere, and it was just chaos.”
Less than two hours later, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. Police determined he fired three rifle shots from the sixth-floor window of a book depository. Two days after his arrest, Oswald was gunned down by nightclub manager Jack Ruby while being transferred by police to a nearby jail.
“It’s hard to believe that I was here for such a world tragedy,” Towner Pender said.
The family’s camera is now on display at the museum where the book depository used to be. Towner Pender said she doesn’t want to attend the 50th-anniversary events.
“I don’t like crowds, for one thing,” she said.
The assassination “could have something to do with it,” she added.
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