A witness to history, Dr. Allen Childs was at Parkland Memorial Hospital on November 22, 1963, when the mortally wounded President John F. Kennedy was rushed into the emergency room. Much has been written about the assassination in Dallas that ended America’s “Camelot,” and Childs offers yet another perspective timed for the 50th anniversary later this year.
We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors and Nurses Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963 (Skyhorse, Nov.) is a compilation of more than 45 eyewitness accounts immediately following the shooting. A medical student at the time, Childs tells Show Daily. “I was one floor above the ER awaiting a pathology exam. Suddenly urgent staccato pages over the loudspeakers split the silence ordering all department heads to the ER.” As surgeons rushed to Trauma Room One, Childs was directed to a loading dock where, he says, “150 anguished staff, patients, and medical students” waited for news. After the president’s death was confirmed, “A wave of grief hit me so hard that it has never left me.”
The book started as a private collection of memories and became a more ambitious project once the historical value of the material was determined, says Childs. “I wanted readers to feel the authenticity of the doctors and the heroic efforts they made to save [the president] when it was obvious there would be no saving him—but they tried everything.”
Firsthand accounts cover not only the president’s grave condition but First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who insisted on being admitted into Trauma Room One with her husband, and the death of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald 48 hours later in the same hospital.
Skyhorse editorial director Jay Cassell stresses that We Were There does not offer “anything definitive” regarding how many shots were fired and from where, but he does say, “It is clear that a proper forensic autopsy was never performed at Parkland despite medical examiner Earl Rose’s insistence.”
What is also suggestive, says Cassell, is archival history from Dr. Ron Jones, a Parkland surgical resident deposed by the Warren Commission. “Dr. Ron Jones said he was told by Warren Commission investigator Arlen Specter: ‘We have people who would testify that they saw somebody shoot the president from the front. But we don’t want to interview them and I don’t want you saying anything about that either.’ ”