Numerous memorable photographs got here from these tragic few days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963: Lyndon Johnson being sworn in as successor president aboard Air Power One, and 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting at his father’s casket in Washington, D.C.
Nonetheless, one photograph, taken instantly after Kennedy was shot, captured media consideration throughout the USA. The photograph confirmed a Secret Service agent leaping on the again of the presidential limousine to guard the president and first woman.
Wednesday, November 22, marks the sixtieth anniversary of the assassination. And Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, now 91, is coming to phrases with being the person who tried to save lots of the president.
“Earlier than Dallas, I used to be solely often called Clint Hill,” Hill informed Radio Diaries. “After that, I used to be often called the man who acquired into the president’s automotive. That six-second interval in Dallas wasn’t simple to dwell with.”
Hill was assigned to First Woman Jacqueline Kennedy in 1960, an project he shortly realized was extra engaging than earlier assignments.
“When Eisenhower would level to us brokers, he would simply say, ‘Hey, agent!’” Hill remembers. “With Kennedy, he knew your first identify. He knew should you have been married. He knew should you had youngsters. He would cease, speak to you. And so, we had the utmost respect for him.”
On the day of the assassination, Kennedy was in Dallas as a part of a marketing campaign journey for the upcoming 1964 election. The President and First Woman met with massive crowds at Dallas Love Discipline, the place Air Power One landed. The variety of spectators elevated because the procession handed by Dallas.
“By the point we acquired to (Principal Avenue), the group was so massive it could not be contained on the sidewalks,” Hill remembers. “Individuals have been hanging out of home windows. They have been on rooftops. They have been on hearth escapes. Anyplace they may very well be to see the president and the primary woman.”
Hill was positioned on the operating board of the follow-up automotive, immediately behind the presidential limousine. Because the procession proceeded by Dealey Plaza, pleasure turned to terror when Hill heard a loud noise over his proper shoulder.
“At first I did not assume it was a gunshot,” Hill remembers. “I assumed it was a firework or one thing. However after I noticed the president’s response, I knew it wasn’t regular. I imply he threw his arms to his throat and began falling to his left.”
Hill instantly ran from the next automotive to the again of the presidential limousine. Whereas he was boarding the aircraft, one other bullet was fired, hitting the president within the head. After this shot, the First Woman climbed into the trunk to satisfy Hill, who guided her into the automotive. Hill used his physique as a defend because the presidential limousine sped towards the hospital.
“I assumed this wound was unsurvivable,” Hill remembers. “I did not assume he had an opportunity.”
Within the aftermath, Hill was riddled with guilt. In his e book 5 days in NovemberHe remembers accompanying Jacqueline Kennedy, nonetheless sporting her blood-stained swimsuit, to Johnson’s swearing-in aboard Air Power One.
“As I take a look at her face, so filled with tears, her eyes so hole and lifeless, a wave of guilt and disgrace washes over me,” Hill remembers within the e book.. “How might she let this occur to her?”
This sense didn’t move within the coming years. Hill completed his stint with Jacqueline Kennedy in 1964 and went on to serve three extra presidents after that, however he remained tormented by guilt after the assassination.
“We acquired no recommendation in any respect,” Hill stated of the Secret Service. “There was no PTSD in these days.”
By 1975, Hill was affected by ongoing well being issues associated to his emotional state after the assassination. He failed his annual bodily examination and was informed that the Secret Service must retire him. Hill was 43 years previous.
“It was all within the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination,” Hill remembers. “Then I went right into a deep despair at dwelling in Virginia. I used to be residing on two packs of cigarettes a day and a bottle of Scotch. That is how I slept.”
In the identical yr, Hill appeared in an episode of the collection 60 minutes Mike Wallace interviewed him about his ideas 12 years after the assassination. Hill has not spoken publicly concerning the accident since he was interviewed for the Warren Fee report in 1964. Wallace praised Hill because the hero who saved Jacqueline Kennedy’s life, however Hill nonetheless believes he might have gotten there quicker.
“If I had gone in a special path, I might have performed this,” Hill stated within the interview. “It is my fault.”
Hill continues to be wrestling with whether or not he feels comfy being referred to as a champion as we speak.
“Over time, lots of prospects have stated they’re prospects now as a result of they noticed what I did in 1963,” Hill stated. “However I do not really feel any consolation in being thought of a hero.”
Nonetheless, Hill felt extra comfy opening up about his expertise on the day of the assassination and his well-being afterward. Along with his spouse, Lisa McCubbin Hill, he has written 4 books about his days as a Secret Service agent, together with a sixtieth anniversary version of his e book. 5 days in Novemberlaunched this month.
“Individuals who have PTSD, which I’ve, the perfect factor they will do is use somebody they belief and speak to them about what’s bothering them,” Hill stated. “The extra they discuss it, the higher they really feel.”
This story was produced by Mycah Hazel and the Radio Diaries group. You’ll be able to hear extra tales from Radio Diaries on Radio Diary Podcast.