The assassination attempt
In 1981, a few months into his presidency, Ronald Reagan exited a Washington hotel and headed for a waiting vehicle when would-be assassin John Hinckley began firing. One of the bullets lodged within an inch of the president's heart. For those White House associates who were with Reagan at the scene of the shooting, and in the following days at the hospital, the memories remain vivid.
Former Reagan Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Deaver:
"I was standing right beside him as we came out the door. There was a horrible moment because I went around the back of the car and Hinckley was shooting over my right shoulder. So it was a moment of utter confusion."
Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese:
Reagan "was coughing blood, so they
thought maybe he had injured himself when they had thrown him into the car. It wasn't until they examined him in the hospital that they found that it was in fact a bullet wound that had entered his side. ... When I got there, they were just wheeling the president out of the emergency room and he looked up, (with) kind of a smile, and said, 'Who's minding the store?'"
Former Reagan Chief of Staff James Baker:
"I do remember walking into that hospital room. I thought he didn't look too great, but he looked great enough to sign a bill. We brought a piece of legislation over so that we could prove to the country that he was well enough, at least, to sign legislation presented by the Congress. I have a copy of that legislation that he sent me with his note on it: 'Dear Jim, this piece of legislation I have signed the day after, just to show that there was no pause in our operation. Oops.' And then he signed it, Ron."