History: The Days after Reagan was Shot

Alan Peppard writes: At the center of a diamond formation of Secret Service agents, Ronald Reagan stepped from the secure VIP exit of the Washington Hilton and onto the damp sidewalk. When a small crowd yelled greetings from across T Street, his movie-star smile instinctively materialized.The new president crossed the pavement to a Lincoln parade car and heard the familiar voice of ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson rise above the din: “What’s the latest on Poland, Mr. President?”
Command and Control: Tested Under Fire — When Ronald Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt, Vice President George Bush raced to Washington from Texas.

It was 2:27 p.m. on March 30, 1981, and the Soviet Union was poised to invade Poland to suppress a labor uprising.

Reagan merely turned toward the press line and waved.

Next to Donaldson, a 25-year-old man in a trench coat flexed his knees and raised his hands in a marksman’s stance. With a revolver he had purchased at a Dallas pawnshop, John W. Hinckley Jr. fired six shots.

It was the 70th day of the Reagan presidency.

Accounts of the afternoon tend to be dominated by the sensational storyline of Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s declaration that “I’m in control here.” But Vice President George H.W. Bush’s pitch-perfect reaction to the crisis lies largely unexplored in the shadow of history. He had only recently been Reagan’s energetic opponent, a fact that was fresh in the memories of Reagan loyalists. The steady hand he showed after the assassination attempt would linger in the minds of his admirers as one of the defining moments of his public career.

[Read more here, at The Dallas Morning News]

Now 90, Bush consented to an email interview for this story. His comments, along with hours of tapes from inside the White House Situation Room, never seen photographs taken aboard Air Force Two and interviews with participants in the crisis shed new light on the day Reagan became the fifth sitting president to be shot and the only one who lived.

“I recall thinking about Nancy and the president when I first heard how bad the situation really was,” Bush told The News. “Even though it was still early in the administration, I didn’t think about them as president and first lady, but rather as friends.”

Hinckley’s first two bullets hit Press Secretary Jim Brady in the forehead and policeman Tom Delahanty in the neck. Standing almost against the car, Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy turned to shield the president and was lifted off his feet as a bullet struck his chest. In the driver’s seat, Agent Drew Unrue watched his friend McCarthy fall from view.

Behind the president, Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Jerry Parr grabbed Reagan’s waist and left shoulder and hurled the 70-year-old headfirst onto the floor of the armored limousine. His chest crashed against the transmission hump as Parr landed on top of him.

The instantaneous reaction of Parr to shots fired by John Hinckley saved the life of President Ronald Reagan. Joining the Secret Service in 1962, Parr protected four vice presidents and in 1979, he began protecting President Jimmy Carter.

On the sidewalk, agent Ray Shaddick shoved their dangling feet inside and slammed the door.

“Get out of here! Go! Go! Go!” Parr shouted. With the rest of the motorcade still curbside, Unrue veered left and prayed, “God, don’t let me run over Timmy.”

The president’s car sped off toward the safety of the White House…(read more)

The Dallas Morning News


2 Comments on “History: The Days after Reagan was Shot”

  1. mdmdmd_mdmdmd says:

    Why don’t you tell the truth about George H.W. Bush? The Bush and Hinckley families were good friends. In an uncropped UPI photo of Reagan a few steps away from his limousine, with his right arm waving in the air, a second floor sniper, clearly seen in the photo, is poised to fire. Below him, on the sidewalk, is Hinckley who can be seen drawing his pistol. This was a nearly successful killing of Reagan by Bush, so that Bush could promote the NWO.

  2. mdmdmd_mdmdmd says:

    I can attach the photo of Reagan’s sniper, if you like.

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