Filming Kennedy: Home Movies from Dallas

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Tina Towner

"I was looking through the viewfinder, so I saw what the camera saw."

Tina Towner
March 30, 1996
Oral History Collection/The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

At 13 years old in 1963, Tina Towner was already experienced in using her father’s Sears Tower Varizoom home movie camera. “He let me take all of the photographs,” she remembered in her 1996 oral history. “I took quite a few movies with that camera.”

Excused from school on November 22, 1963, Tina accompanied her parents, James and Patricia, to Dealey Plaza to view the presidential parade. Around 11 a.m., the family positioned themselves in Dealey Plaza on the southwest corner of Elm and Houston streets, across from the entrance to the Texas School Book Depository. Jim Towner took a still photograph while Tina, standing to his right, used the family’s home movie camera to capture a film of the motorcade as it turned onto Elm Street, seconds before shots were fired.

Having served in the military, Jim Towner recognized gunfire immediately. He later recalled, “Pat said, ‘Oh mercy, some fool is shooting firecrackers.’ I said, ‘That’s no firecracker. That’s a .30-06 rifle.’ ” Minutes after the shooting, Tina filmed a few additional seconds of footage. “When I finished shooting the pictures of him coming around the corner, I hadn’t heard the film finish up. So, I took a few more pictures or frames after that.” This final sequence showed the grassy knoll in the aftermath of the assassination.