DALLAS — About 5,000 people can fit in Dealey Plaza. At least 9,000 more wish they could, including Ollie and Geneva Nichols.
"It was just a sad moment, you know," said Geneva, a lifelong Dallas resident who was a sophomore at James Madison High School on November 22, 1963.
Her husband Ollie was a Marine. "I was three months out of boot camp," he recalled.
They have crystal clear memories of that dark day a half-century ago. "He was my hero," said Geneva, talking about President John F. Kennedy. "It was like a relative had died. For a long time, it was like a spot. When we'd go out of town, they'd say, 'Where are you from?' 'We're from Dallas, Texas.' 'Oh, you're the ones who shot that president.'"
The Nichols were two of 14,000 Dallas residents who registered with the city to be considered for admittance to the 50th anniversary commemoration of the assassination at Dealey Plaza. Five-thousand people will be allowed in... just more than half will be Dallas residents. The others will be VIPs and out-of-towners.
After a random drawing, official admission notifications started arriving in e-mail in-boxes last week. The final ones came Monday.
Anyone who did not receive an e-mail was not chosen for a ticket. Like many people, Geneva and Ollie — a decorated Vietnam vet — didn't get one.
"That's a milestone I would've liked to have been a part of," Ollie said. "President Kennedy was my first Commander-in-Chief."
Bob Sanders feels honored that he received a ticket. "I was very, very surprised," he said, admitting he did a double-take when the e-mail message arrived on his cell phone. "I know there were a lot of people interested, so to be picked, it's a big deal. It's an important thing."
Sanders was eight months old when his family moved to Dallas, and he has never left.
"It's been a hard, difficult, tricky life for Dallas after [the assassination]," he said. "What do you embrace? Do you embrace his life? The history? Do you ignore all the fringe issues?"
Sanders said he will spend the next few weeks brushing up on history so he can fully absorb the history he will witness.
The Nichols don't feel slighted or jealous.
"We just weren't lucky enough," Geneva said.
They're already making plans to watch on TV from home.
"And we'll just wish we were there," Geneva said.
The e-mail notifications do ask recipients to let organizers know if they will be unable to attend so someone else might be given a chance.