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Marilyn Sitzman and Me

On the set of "JFK"

Dealey Plaza, downtown Dallas



After I found out I was playing Marilyn Sitzman, I called my mom's best friend, Mary Ferrell (more about her in another photo's comments) and asked for Ms. Sitzman's phone number. Mary, who knew everyone ever connected with the assassination, immediately gave me the number and told me to have a great time on location (no worries about that, Mary!).


So, not knowing what to expect, I called Ms. Sitzman and held my breath as the phone rang. Would she think I was a pest and hang up on me? Would she think I was a nut (I knew that many people associated with the assassination encountered nuts all of the time)? I was terrified and started to hang up the phone when she answered. After we made our introductions, Ms. Sitzman realized I wasn't a crazy, and we had a friendly chat about her old boss, Abraham Zapruder, his infamous film, and how the events of November 22, 1963 shaped her life.


She said that she wasn't very curious to see the motorcade that day, but she went because Mr. Zapruder asked her to go along with him. When he found the perfect place to capture the action (a 3'-high pedestal along the grassy knoll), he asked Ms. Sitzman to stand behind him and hold onto his shoulders because he had vertigo and was afraid that he would get dizzy. Ever the dutiful secretary, she did so and watched in horror as Kennedy was assassinated before her eyes.


I asked her where she thought the shots came from, and she adamently insisted that they came from the School Book Depository. Ms. Sitzman said that she could see behind the fence where a second shooter supposedly stood, and she never saw anyone there.


By this time, I was interested to meet Ms. Sitzman in person, so I invited her to the set. I was very happy when she agreed to meet me the next day between scenes. I told her I'd be standing at her spot on the pedestal all day, and she could find me there.


The next day, she did find me. Luckily, it was lunchtime and shooting had stopped for awhile, so I showed Ms. Sitzman around the set, and she admired just how much everything looked as it did in 1963. We walked over to the pedestal that gained her (and Zapruder) lifelong notorioty that that had been my home for almost two weeks now. We sat there and talked.


I asked her what she and Mr. Zapruder did when they realized what they were witnessing. She said that they got off the pedestal and ran away from the gunshot noise into the vestibule of the Art Deco curved walkway behind them. They waited, terrified, until they felt they were safe, then they went back to their office.


Ms. Sitzman and I spent the lunch hour chatting, but when the cast and crew came back to the set, she decided it was time to leave. We gave each other a hug, and I gratefully thanked her for meeting me, then she stood up from that pedestal and walked off the set. I never spoke to her again and found out that she died of cancer a couple of years later.


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Taken on November 24, 2008