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  • Writer's pictureEldon Callaway

The attempted assassination of Reagan

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

A major story point in The Quarter Year Man deals with the assassination attempt of then President Ronald Reagan. To help the reader with some information, here is what happened on that day, along with information most don't know about, though the information is there for anyone who finds it.

John Warnock Hinckley Jr.

At 2:27 p.m. on March 30, 1981, just sixty-nine days into his presidency, Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley in an attempt by Hinkley to impress actress Jodie Foster. He had become obsessed with her after seeing the movie Taxi Driver, where the main character attempts to assassinate a U.S. Senator.

The location of the shootings were at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington D.C. where President Reagan had a speaking engagement. Ronald Reagan, James Brady, Timothy McCarthy, and Thomas Delahanty were all shot in the incident, though initially, it was thought Ronald Reagan had been missed.

As it turned out, President Reagan had been shot twice, once in the lower right arm and the other in the chest, suffering a punctured lung and internal bleeding. Luckily, they were able to get him into surgery and he recovered quickly. Not so some of the others.

White House Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head, suffering brain damage that continued to affect him until his death in 2014. Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy was hit in the abdomen attempting to shield President Reagan, but recovered from the wound. Washington D.C. Police Officer Thomas Delahanty was shot in the neck and fell next to Brady. Delahanty's bullet ricocheted off his spinal cord which caused permanent nerve damage to his left arm, forcing him to retire early.

A number of strange occurrences came about from this incident as well. Then Vice President, George H Bush, was flying over Texas in Air Force Two for an engagement in Fort Worth when he received word of the assassination attempt. Due to the confusion of the incident, he was informed that President Reagan had not been shot and he continued on to his engagement. After it was over, he learned that the president had not only been shot, but might not survive. Hurriedly refueling, Bush took Air Force Two back to Washington D.C., while keeping in contact on the secured phone of the time. Unfortunately, it was later learned that the phone on Air Force Two was not secure (no one knows why) and the conversations could have been picked up by anyone.

Sending a note (which supposedly stated, "Get off the stage.') to the assistant press secretary who was informing the press of what happened, Secretary of State Alexander Haig took over the podium, stating to the press "I am in control here." He had erroneously stated that he was third in line for the presidency, when in reality he was fifth. This later caused him to backtrack to say what he meant was the government had control. As it turned out, President Reagan was never relinquished of his position.

Oddly, where the news originally thought Reagan had not been shot, they also erroneously thought James Brady had died. Both errors were corrected in later news.

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