Friday, May 17, 2013

"Mrs. Kennedy and Me"

     I recently finished a book by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbins titled "Mrs. Kennedy and Me."  Hill was secret service agent to Jacqueline Kennedy and early on, he describes how disappointing it was not to be assigned to the Presidential detail.  Hill was just 26 at the time and went on to spend a rewarding and loyal four years of service to Mrs. Kennedy and her children.
     Hill was devoted to the First Lady and writes at great length of the depth of her intelligence, her athleticism, her sense of humor, and her dedication to her children.  He traveled widely with her.  Especially interesting are his descriptions to Greece and Pakistan.  The President of Pakistan gave Mrs. Kennedy a horse, which she had brought to Washington, D. C. and named Sartori.
     Clint Hill was present at the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.  Kennedy had been campaigning in Florida prior to going to Dallas and made the comment there that he didn't want Secret Service agents riding on the back of the car.  He wanted to be more accessible to the people.
    Clint Hill was near the follow-up car at the time of the first shot.  He immediately began to run toward the Presidential car.  He heard an additional shot ring out and noticed to his horror Mrs. Kennedy climbing out on the trunk of the car.  The film footage below shows this happening.
     For fifty years, I'd always thought that Mrs. Kennedy was trying to help Clint into the car.  In actuality, she was trying to retrieve a part of the President's head.  I never realized before the terrible extent of the President's injuries.  Tragically, the second bullet smashed into his head, scattering bone, blood, and grey matter all over the limosine.  Mrs. Kennedy's pink suit was covered in blood.
     Amazingly, there were no emergency personnel to meet the President's car at Parkland Hospital.  The secret service agents placed the President on a gurney and rushed him to the emergency room.  Throughout the experience, Mrs. Kennedy never left her husband's side.  She was so devoted to him that she even rode in the back of the ambulance that that transported the body from Dallas to be flown to Washington, D. C.  She then later planned every detail of the President's lying in State and his funeral. 
     Everyone remembers what they were doing at the moment they heard of the death of John F. Kennedy.  I was in my 8th grade Algebra class.
     I don't think anyone realized the depth of guilt and suffering experienced by Clint Hill.  There were many details of the assassination that he never even shared with his wife.  The truth came out in a moving interview with Mike Wallace in 1975.  We actually see Clint Hill wincing at the memory of the assassination.  For 50 years, he blamed himself for not taking the bullet meant for President Kennedy.  However, many years later, he realized that there was nothing that he could have done.
     Here is a link to the 60 Minutes interview.  Mike Wallace is to be commended for the compassion he shows for Clint Hill here.

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