"Why Couldn't You Wait?"
In November of 1963, Dr. Earl Rose had one of the most difficult and often times grim jobs in the United States or any part of the world for that matter. He was a coroner, responsible for determining how a person met their untimely end. Anyone who died in or around the city of Dallas, Texas had to go through his procedures of determining causes of deaths.
But, on this particular day, November 22, 1963, he had been forced to stand aside when he was denied the chance of examining the body of President John F. Kennedy, who had been killed by an assassin's bullet while riding in an open limousine. It was his job, his duty to examine the president, but he was denied the chance.
"Why couldn't they just wait?" he muttered as he sat in a bar not far from Parkland Hospital, where the President was taken after the assassination. "I am supposed to follow the laws of Texas and examine anyone who died on Texas soil. I could have been done in three, maybe four hours at best. Why?"
"It's the government, Earl," replied Mike, the bartender as he wiped a glass clean. "They think they are above the laws of Texas, but like you, I can't help but wonder why they wouldn't listen to you. You are the medical examiner, after all."
"I know that, Mike," sighed Earl. "President Kennedy is certainly no different than anyone else in this city. Do you know what is going to happen now that I never got the chance to examine him? Conspiracy theories are going to arise and a frightened public is going to start making their own assumptions."
Mike placed the glass he was cleaning back on the shelf and walked over to Earl, feeling genuinely sympathetic for his friend and loyal customer. Much like the rest of the country, he too was in shock over the president's death. He was of Irish decent and the presidential motorcade was supposed to pass through his bar.
"Well, there is nothing you can do about it now, Earl," said Mike. "Those secret service agents don't take any bull from anyone, even from someone like you. There is a big difference between laws in Texas and laws of the United States."
"It's not about that, Mike," remarked Earl as took in a handful of pretzels. "It's about all the answers that are going to be hidden because of all of this. Those hospitals up north are no better than the hospitals down here. I know I feel sorry for Mrs. Kennedy, but she is not like any other widow. She is like all the others that I deal with on a daily basis."
Mike sighed at the remark his friend made about Mrs. Kennedy, even though he was used to hearing all of the stories about the families that were broken as a result of death, etc.
"Earl, you have to remember that Mrs. Kennedy is not the only one who is affected by all of this," sighed Mike as he poured beer for another customer. "Two children have lost a father, a father has lost his son, nine brothers and sisters have no sibling and so much promise and hope for the future has been shattered. At the end of the day, Earl, it's everyone in the nation who is suffering, not just you."
Earl stayed silent as he merely left his money to pay Mike and simply got down walking back out of the bar. Once Earl got outside, he merely walked down the streets of Dallas that was filled with people still mourning or simply in a state of shock. He didn't want to be around this anymore, he wanted to simply get back home to his family and focus on another day. In fact, as he walked, Earl could still remember the heated confrontation with the secret service agents earlier that day after the President had been declared dead:
"The President is coming with us," said Roy Kellerman, who was one of the secret service agents assigned to the president as he stopped Earl from looking into the casket.
"You can't take him," snapped Earl, being pushed away from the casket. "We have laws here in Texas."
"The law can be waived," retorted Roy, pointing a finger at Earl and holding him at bay from stepping towards the casket.
"Not by me," protested Earl, digging in his heels and determined to get his autopsy. "I can't do it."
Earl continued his hardest to try and do his job and the more he tried, the more he was pushed despite the protests from the doctors to simply back off and let the president's body leave for Washington. Now, Earl was getting angry and impatient with this individual. He needed to do what he was paid to do and he was being denied. Even if the Queen of England was assassinated, her people would have also needed to play by the rules?
"Do you have any idea..." cried Roy, getting more and more defensive towards Earl. "Any idea how difficult this has been for Mrs. Kennedy?"
"I deal with widows every day!" snarled Earl, who was becoming less and less professional and more and more hostile. "The remains will stay here."
"I don't think so," growled Roy, who was now using brute force to push Earl back from the casket. "The remains... What did you call it, your body? The hell with you, and the hell with your law."
As he finished thinking those thoughts, Earl walked into his house and simply sat down on his sofa and began to reflect on what could have been.
"I can't be denied to do what I do," Earl thought as he looked up at the ceiling. "Yes, I am just like every other goddamn American in this country. I too, have lost a president and I too, want answers like everyone else. But, those answers are gone and whoever does the job that I was supposed to do, well, they won't do a good job. They will just make their own conclusions and the whole truth will be lost forever."
And Earl stayed on that sofa all night and for the next few days, he returned to his daily job and didn't even watch President Kennedy's funeral, because it would be a constant reminder of his failure to quiet rumors. A few days later, however, when the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed, Earl regained his authority with no interference of the Secret Service.
"He's staying here," said Earl, sternly as he stood outside of the room.
"This time," replied the doctor. "I don't think anyone is going to give you a hard time."
So, Earl took the body of Lee Harvey Oswald away and this time, he would not be kept away from his job.