I remember exactly where I was on March 30th 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. I was with a group of fellow Marines on Court Street in Jacksonville North Carolina having a few beers when we heard the news that the Commander and Chief has been shot. That shooting had a profound effect on me as President Reagan was not only the Commander and Chief while I served in the United States Marine Corps; he was also the first President I had ever voted for and I would again vote for in 1984. In honor of the President that night, upon hearing the news of the shooting I permanently inscribed the memory with me forever, with the American symbol of freedom, the Bald Eagle in the form of a tattoo on my left arm. I may have had 1, 2 or 3 beers over my limit in his honor as well. :)
Del Quentin Wilber has written a great book on the shooting “Rawhide Down” The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan. The book is well written and breaks down the circumstances surrounding the shooting minute by minute. The actual shooting lasted 1.7 seconds, six shots were fired that left four people injured. The first hit was White House Press Secretary James Brady. The second person struck was DC Police Officer Thomas Delahanty. The third struck was secret service Agent Tim McCarthy as he attempted to shield the President. The sixth round, the president was hit as he was being thrown into the Presidential limo by Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr as the round ricochet off the side of the Presidential Limo.
Rawhide down gets into facts and circumstances that I had not heard before. The book is well researched and well put together as it reads much like a novel. All involved are covered in the book, the President, the agents and cops, the hospital staff, nurses and doctors that worked to save the president who was much more near death than I had realized back in 1981. Reagan’s resilience and sense of humor show clear in the book as well as his compassion for others.
The book covers the planning of these presidential events and how planning and security measures have evolved to ensure as much as possible the safety of the president and his staff. The intuitive decisions made under pressure that very well may have saved the presidents life are brought to the reader’s attention as well. The goings on of the Presidents staff while he was down is spelled out in the book. Egos and personalities are alive and well but they were able to mange the crisis with only a few self-proclaimed gaffs.
Lastly the shooter, John Hinckley Jr. is covered and is a rather interesting story we can all learn from. Hinckley’s motives were not based on conspiracy or a hatred of the President or his policies. No. Instead his motives were wrapped in his efforts to impress a young actress who he had a one way relationship or I should say obsessions with. That actress was a young Jody Foster. This brings to light once again that “motive” always lies in the eyes of the beholder, making prediction of pending attacks all the more difficult, making observation, orientation, decision and action all the more important.
Rawhide down is a great read. Be sure to check out www.rawhidedown.com for interviews, video clips of the shooting, and those involved.