40 years ago this week, a young would-be assassin put a bullet in President Ronald Reagan.
The man whose quick thinking likely saved the president’s life was Jerry Parr, a member of Mr. Reagan’s Secret Service detail that day outside the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Before anyone was aware that one of John Hinckley jr. shots had actually hit the president, Jerry Parr recognized something was seriously wrong, and he ordered the president’s driver to head straight to the hospital.
The president arrived at the hospital just in time. He collapsed inside the door, and was rushed into surgery.
I met Jerry Parr in 2013. He and his wife Carolyn had written a book about that day, and about their lives before and after the assassination attempt.
And as you’re about to hear, Carolyn Parr made what I guess Hollywood would call a cameo appearance at the Reagan shooting scen
So here now, from 2013, Jerry Parr.
Jerry Parr died just two years after our interview. He was 85.
If you’re of a certain age, you remember where you were when something big and historical happened. For my parents, it was Pearl Harbor. For my children, it was the Challenger explosion.
For me, it was the John F Kennedy assassination, on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.
We all know what happened. John and Jackie Kennedy arrived in Dallas for a early campaign visit. They drove to Dealey Plaza, rounded the corner, and Lee Harvey Oswald fired shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building.
The rest is history.
But in the intervening decades, members of the president’s Secret Service detail rarely spoke about that day, even among themselves. That changed in 2010, when Gerald Blaine, a senior member of the detail, wrote a book about their common experience.
Among the agents whose story is told in the book is Clint Hill, the agent seen in a million photos and videos of that day, sprinting forward to the First Couple’s limousine after the shots were fired. You’ve seen him in photos, spread-eagled across the Kennedys.
I met Gerald Lane and Clint Hill in 2010, when they came to Washington to talk about their book.
So here now, from 2010, Gerald Lane and Clint Hill.