Josiah Thompson's (author of "Six Seconds in Dallas") interview with Marilyn Sitzmann, the woman who held Abraham Zapruder while he was filming the motorcade. Transcript of tape recording. Transcript in Zapruder file at Assassination Research Center, Washington DC.
Ellipses as in original transcript.
Thompson: I'm talking to Marilyn Sitzman. Marilyn Sitzman was standing on the concrete pedestal with Abraham Zapruder. Marilyn, could you just describe in your own words then the events of November 22, beginning, oh, perhaps, five or ten minutes before the assassination occurred?
Sitzman: Well, before the presidential motorcade came down the street, Mr. Zapruder ran a few frames of the film, just with us standing there on the lawn in front of the marble ... whatever you call it.
Sitzman: Then ... he ... I don't know if he had decided before or had picked a spot, but he went on top of the ... what do you call it?
Thompson: The concrete square ... concrete ... yeah.
Sitzman: Yes. Well, he stood up there, and he asked me to come up and stand behind him, 'cause when he takes the pictures looking through the telescopic lens, he might get dizzy, and he wanted me to stand behind him, so in case he got dizzy I could hold onto him. so I got up behind him, and we saw the motorcade turn the corner at Main onto Houston. He hadn't started taking the pictures there then, and we watched them as they came down Houston; and just as the motorcycles that were leading the parade came ... started ... came around the corner and started down the hill, he started taking the pictures then. And there's nothing unusual about it ... (interrupted by a knock -- tape recorder turned off).
Thompson: (resumes recording) So now I believe the motorcade has made the turn onto Houston Street and is proceeding down Houston Street. Sorry we were interrupted.
Sitzman: Try it again. There was nothing unusual until the first sound, which I thought was a firecracker, mainly because of the reaction of President Kennedy. He put his hands up to guard his face and leaned to the left, and the motorcade, you know, proceeded down the hill. And the next thing that I remembered correct ... clearly was the shot that hit him directly in front of us, or almost directly in front of us, that hit him on the side of his fa ... [sic]
Thompson: Where on the side of the head did that shot appear to hit?
Sitzman: I would say it'd be above the ear and to the front.
Thompson: In other words, if one drew a line vertically upward from the tip of the ear, it would be forward of that line?
Thompson: It would then mean the left ... back of the temple, but on the side of the head, back of the temple?
Sitzman: Between the eye and the ear.
Thompson: Between the eye and the ear.
Sitzman: And we could see his brains come out, you know, his head opening. It must have been a terrible shot because it exploded his head, more or less.
Thompson: Did you see what the President's movement was at that point? I mean, how his head moved or how his body seemed to move under the impact of the shot.
Sitzman: No, I guess ... I saw his, you know, the shot hit his head and what happened to his head, and I don't care what anybody says, I was looking at his head. I wasn't paying any attention which way he was moving or anything else, because it's something that I've never seen before, you know, and kind of ugh.
Thompson: Did you see the head flip, though, under the impact in any particular direction -- forward, backward, to the left?
Sitzman: No, I don't recall if I did or not. I just, you know, this is what I saw, this is what I remember.
Thompson: Right, right.
Sitzman: And as far as the sound of the shots go, the first one, as I said, sounded like a firecracker, and the second one that I heard sounded the same, because I recall no difference whatsoever in them. And I'm sure that if the second shot would have come from a different place -- and the supposed theory is they would have been much closer to me and on the right side -- I would have heard the sounding of the gun much closer, and I probably had a ringing in my head because the fence was quite close to where we were standing, very close. Ah, it just sounded the same way.
Thompson: Your ears, then, never rung from the particular explosion. They weren't that ...
Sitzman: Uh, uh ... not ... the loudest thing I heard that afternoon was the siren, and that was ...
Thompson: And then you watched the ... then after the head shot, the car disappeared under the underpass?
Sitzman: Uh huh. And I got off the concrete slab we were standing on, and I ran down the hill, and I met some men from across the street, and I took it for granted that they were Secret Service or CIA or something like that; and they asked me what happened, and I said, "they killed him." And I walked back up the hill, and I talked to an FBI man up there that did identify himself to me, but I don't recall his name, and then I walked back behind the marble thing there, not behind it, but back inside.
Thompson: Inside the alcove.
Sitzman: And I looked out the back. Everybody was running back that way. Everybody ran up the hill and back and looked out that way.
Thompson: And where did they run? Did they run back into the railroad yard or into the parking lot?
Sitzman: Some ran ... I mean ... I finally got back up to the alcove. There was bunches of people just swarming back there, and I think almost everybody on that hill ran back up that way. And another thing that I remember this day: there was a colored couple. I figure they were between 18 and 21, a boy and a girl, sitting on a bench, just almost, oh, parallel with me, on my right side, close to the fence.
Thompson: In other words, between you and the fence, there's a tree right next to the ...
Sitzman: There's a tree, and there's another part of the marble or concrete, whatever they call it, slab, fence, whatever they call it, between that and the wooden fence.
Thompson: Which direction was the bench facing when you ...
Sitzman: It was facing towards the street.
Thompson: Towards the street. Parallel? Downstreet? Facing forward?
Sitzman: And they were eating their lunch, 'cause they had little lunch sacks, and they were drinking coke. The main reason I remember 'em is, after the last shot I recall hearing and the car went down under the triple underpass there, I heard a crash of glass, and I looked over there, and the kids had thrown down their coke bottles, just threw them down and just started running towards the back and I ... Of course, I don't see anything unusual in that because everybody else was running that way, 'cause when I look over on my left side, the people on the hill were all running back the same way too.
Thompson: Uh huh. Uh huh. Did you see any peculiar vehicles or people in the area that's been called the grassy knoll, in the parking lot area behind the fence or behind the pergola?
Sitzman: Well, there were a lot of cars in the parking lot. There always is. It's the parking lot for the Texas School Depository.
Thompson: Was it pretty well packed that day with cars?
Sitzman: That day and every day.
Thompson: Uh huh.
Sitzman: It's always full, because the people ... I'm not too sure whose lot it is. If it's part of the railroad company or the Texas School Depository or what, but it's always filled.
Thompson: Could I ask you something about your gaze and actions immediately after the head shot? On the trailer of Mr. Zapruder's film, we noticed that he turned to his right and photographed the general area of the stockade fence, the trees and the stockade fence and that particular area. Did you turn in that direction after the head shot too?
Sitzman: In a way, I have a feeling this: He might have heard the kids throw down the coke bottles and heard that crash or else maybe it was just what he saw could have caused a reaction where he'd jump, but I don't think it was the sound of bullets, because I didn't jump.
Sitzman: Because the pop bottle crashing was much louder than the shots were.
Thompson: No, this is a slightly different thing. I remarked earlier that in the Zapruder film, around frame 318, 319, we see a very sudden jiggle in the film as if the photographer was startled by a noise or by seeing something, and earlier you suggested ... well, what did you suggest?
Sitzman: Well, seeing what we saw when the bullet hit Kennedy's head and it opening up like this, you don't stand there very calmly and do nothing. I'm sure ... it ... to me, it would be a normal reaction to kind of jump or something.
Thompson: In other words, one would be startled by what one saw there rather than necessarily by what one heard.
Sitzman: Sure, sure. If you're the type of person that would react that way. Some would just immediately freeze. Some people would ... Some women would've probably passed out, some ... rather bloody ....
Thompson: Darn right. I know. I've seen the films too. Now, to get to this area between the stockade fence and the cement abutment, or small mall: Did you turn after the shot to look in this general area?
Thompson: And did you see anyone in this area?
Sitzman: No, just the two colored people running back.
Thompson: I see. They were already ... they'd gotten up from the bench and were now running around into the gap made between the stockade fence and the pergola.
Sitzman: Either in the gap there or back in the alcove. I don't recall which way they went. I saw ... I heard the bottles crash, and of course I looked that way, to my right, right away, and they were getting up and running towards the back. And I turned back to see if there was anything in the front street, because then they didn't affect me one way or another.
Thompson: To see if anything else was going on. Had you seen them sitting on the bench before you stood next to them?
Sitzman: Oh year, yes. Everybody is ... oh, ten or fifteen minutes before, everybody was malling around down there, trying to find a place to stand and everything, and I know when we went over to get up on the marble thing, they were already sitting there.
Thompson: Well, did you notice at any point whether either of these two moved up to the end of the, to the point of the wall?
Sitzman: No. They may have. I don't know.
Thompson: Of course, you were looking at the parade at that point, and you wouldn't have seen what they did.
Sitzman: Yeah. I always have the feeling that they were still sitting on the bench, because when I looked over there, they were getting up from the bench.
Thompson: Marilyn, I've showed you this picture, which is approximately Nix frame 24, the famous frame which shows what some people believe to be a vehicle with a man on top of it. We discussed this earlier, and I take it to be your definite and certain opinion that if there was a vehicle there it was not out in this plateau area.
Sitzman: That's correct. This is one thing that you couldn't miss.
Sitzman: Because it's not that large an area back there, and if there'd been a car back there, especially with someone on top of it, you just don't over look it.
Thompson: Right, right. No, I agree. So, whatever this be, whether it be a vehicle, whatever it is, you feel quite certain it's back of the pergola, back of the line joining the periphery of the pergola with the stockade fence. It's shoved back of this bush, in other words, which appears both in this ...
Sitzman: I know what you're saying, but I still can't say it.
Thompson: I can't figure out how to say ... in other words ...
Sitzman: I can't say that there was ... I can't say ... I can't see how any picture could take a picture of a car back there. It'd have to be up on stilts. That fence is rather high.
Thompson: Yeah. By fence, you mean the cement wall.
Sitzman: Sure, the cement wall and the fence, and this picture, remember this picture is taken from a downhill angle looking up, so it's even going to have to be higher than a five-foot fence.
Thompson: Actually, this is taken from about the same elevation from quite a distance over, the other side of Main Street.
Sitzman: Oh, I see.
Thompson: With a telescopic lens. So you're quite certain that whatever this be, and we're making no decision as to what it is, it's back in that parking area, not in the plateau area bounded by the stockade fence on one side, by the cement wall on the other and by the pergola and the line joining the pergola and the stockade fence on the other.
Sitzman: That's right.
Thompson: Yeah, I must ... gee, I must say I sure agree with you on that. That seems quite clear. One other question I'd like to ask concerns your building itself. You mentioned that a great number of people were looking out of windows and sitting on fire escapes.
Sitzman: Uh huh.
Thompson: Do you happen to know whether people were on the upper floors, on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors looking out?
Sitzman: I know about the fourth and fifth, because that's the floors we occupied. I don't know about the sixth, seventh, or two, three and four ... I mean two and three. But I'm sure that if our factory people were looking out there, there'd probably be people from the other people's factory, because there's a lot ... we have an awful lot of older women that work in factories that just didn't feel like walking all the way down there and back again. And you only get 30 minutes for lunch. And you get quite a good view of Houston Street from up there, and I'm sure they felt they could see just as much sitting in the windows on the fire escape watching.
Thompson: Well ... you do ... we talked about the roof of this building There's a water tower up there, and it is possible to get access to that from the roof.
Sitzman: I'm sure it is.
Thompson: That day, you don't recall police going around into the different factory offices of offices of the factory people?
Sitzman: No, no.
Thompson: So what I told you about this unidenti ... [sic] or this identified man who was found with no business in the building: that would indicate he was found somewhere in the hallways or out in the ...
Sitzman: It's possible or else it's possible the police did go through there, and I may not have been back to the building by then, or else I may have been back in one of the back rooms and not paid any attention.
Thompson: Sure, sure.
Sitzman: There was a ... there was thousands of people coming out of that building after I got back there. There was reporters, there were just people from the street I remember coming up and asking questions.
Thompson: Is there anything else you'd like to add to this at this point? Anything that you think would be of relevance to us as we go on and try to pursue leads and ...
Sitzman: No, not really.
Thompson: O.K. Well, thank you very, very much.
[Sitzman leaves. Thompson talks into tape recorder]
Thompson: I want to add a kind of afterword to the Marilyn Sitzman interview. I asked Marilyn whether she recalled a telephone conversation with Mr. Jones Harris. She said she recalled that conversation, and then I related to her what Harris had told me, namely that she had heard a shot coming from her right, that it was rather close and that the, her right ear was ringing from the sound of the shot long after the explosions had died down.
She said that she didn't recall telling Mr. Harris any such thing. She was rather surprised when I told her this. She said this was absolutely not the case and that on at least eight different occasions said that, pointed out that there was a similarity between the sound of the shots. If she had to guess from which direction they came, she would have guessed to her left, but there was no distinction in direction of the sound or magnitude of sound with respect to the two shots.
My general opinion of Marilyn Sitzman is that first of all that what she told me is the truth. She in no way seemed to be sensitive to particular areas of the case. She seemed to be relating quite forthrightly what she had seen. She's a rather loose, friendly girl, personable and very easy to talk to and get along with.
I must say that in the background of all the people that one talks to at the Zapruder factory, one gets the impression that they would be very unhappy to have anything turn up at this point that would lead to the re-opening of the case and further questions. They're tired of all the questioning and frankly wish it would all end. This applies especially to Mr. Abraham Zapruder ...