"There are no faint hearts in Fort Worth."
That is how President John F. Kennedy greeted a crowd of supporters who had gathered on a rainy Fort Worth fall day, the morning of Nov. 22, 1963.
The people who were there had no way of knowing ahead of time the president would address them - it happened without warning. The same could be said for what happened later that day in Dallas as well.
"It's unfortunate that so much of the memory, the memory of President John F. Kennedy, relates to his death. But really the life of John F. Kennedy is what inspires people today. And this tribute is a marvelous example of how you can pay tribute to a President," said Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, in reference to the unveiling of the JFK Tribute Thursday.
The JFK Tribute is a public memorial in Fort Worth's General Worth Square, at 8th and Main Streets, just north of the Fort Worth Convention Center and located in the shadow of the Fort Worth Hilton Hotel, formerly the Hotel Texas, where President Kennedy spent his last night.
It has taken a long time for the tribute to become a reality. It was opened nearly 49 years to the day of the event it commemorates, and more than a decade after the effort to create such a place started to gain momentum.
The tribute features a marble wall, with large photographs taken of the president that day, famous quotes from his speeches etched into the stone and a larger than life bronze statue of Kennedy, his right arm extended as if to shake hands with visitors to the site.
On the tribute's accompanying website, jfktribute.com, it is written that the site is "structured to offer a place for both contemplation and education, for today and the future."
Among the many to address the crowd that gathered for the tribute's opening was Fort Worth native and Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders. Sanders said that he was not in attendance at JFK's impromptu rally the morning of Nov. 22, 1963. Instead, Sanders said he was sitting in his segregated elementary school just a mile away, having seen the president arrive the night before.
"You see, for me, John F. Kennedy was not just a president. John F. Kennedy was hope. The personification of hope," Sanders said. "When Air Force One landed out at Carswell Air Force Base we in Fort Worth, people like me saw hope set down in my hometown."
At long last that hope has returned to Fort Worth. And the plan is for it to stay here for years to come.