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TODAY   |  November 22, 2013

50 years later: JFK memorials to begin in Dallas

Lester Holt reports from Dealey Plaza, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> solem day in our national history. 50 years ago today john f. kennedy was gunned down in dallas . the eternal flame still burns this morning.

>> the flag has been lowered as it has been lowered at other sites around the country. this is a day that people say an age of innocence ended. it was the end of a period known as camelot in this country. we can all think of where we were. at least those of us that were alive.

>> yeah, i remember 3rd grade . they brought us into the auditorium. first time you saw strangers crying on the street.

>> it's our top story today. lester holt is in dallas this morning. lester, good morning to you.

>> reporter: matt, good morning. i'm coming to you from the top of what became known as the grassy knoll here at dealy plaza. people were huddled on the ground as the shots were fired. this is the point where he stood capturing the only film evidence of the assassination itself as the presidential motorcade went by and 5,000 ticket holders will gather later today to honor the memory of president kennedy . there will be songs and speeches and tributes around 12:30 at the time the president was shot. there will be a moment of silence followed by a ringing of bells across the city as dallas remembers. dealy plaza remains the same as it was in 1963 . even the building that overlooks it from where the shots were fired still stands.

>> somewhere along the 50 years someone could have said let's erase this and start anew.

>> there were a lot of people that said that. there was a lot of democracy going on about how we want to remake dallas .

>> reporter: he says today is about dallas choosing not to distance itself from its tragic place in history as if the daily stream of tourists who stroll the plaza would allow anyone to forget.

>> it's very moving. it's still very moving.

>> reporter: the white xs that for years marked the spot where the president was struck were paved over on thursday. today was about remembering jfk, not his murder.

>> we want to honor him.

>> reporter: ruth is chair of today's tribute n. 1963 she was among those awaiting the president's arrival.

>> everybody was wondering what happened when he ran in and ran out and he got up and said i have sad news. he said the president has been shot.

>> reporter: today, part of a speech kennedy didn't live to deliver will be unveiled on a monument reading in part, we in this country, in this generation are by destiny rather than choice the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. many of those gathering today were also among the last to see kennedy alive.

>> he looked at me and nodded and waved like i see you. and for a 13-year-old kid, that's huge.

>> of course.

>> reporter: that enthusiasm and hope is what dallas remembers today.

>> it's a sad day to remember that day, but we have to take those emotions and channel it into something that is better for our city and hopefully better for america as well.

>> reporter: the featured speaker here today a historian and author who will read excerpts from some of jfk's speeches and matt and savannah, we should point out there's been a dramatic change in the weather here. temperatures plunged overnight so very chilly and likely rainy day today when the ceremony gets underway.

>> all right. lester holt in dallas . thank you so much. coming up, they'll join us with their reflections on that day. tom spoke with a host of people who were there including one of the doctors that treated the president at parkland hospital and dan was on the scene covering the news as it unfolded and later today nbc news will have special coverage of the moment of silence at 1:25 eastern, 10:25 pacific time .