‘Life spared by an inch’: Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan occurred 32 years ago today

On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt outside the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Del Quentin Wilber is the author of “Rawhide Down,” a bestselling account of the attempted assassination.

Wilber took to Twitter to share details about that terrifying day and how close we came to losing President Reagan just 70 days into his presidency.

  • JustLikeAnimals

    RIP Ronald Reagan. Wish you were here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brett.mcmicken Brett McMicken

      I think my favorite detail from 3/30/81 was that a surgical intern held the president’s beating heart in his hands. #reagan #tcot #history


      that would be scary if that happened today, what with all the haters

    • http://www.vatican.va/ Rulz

      AND in the White House

    • stellatruman

      he would be so disappointed if he saw the state of the USA today

  • http://www.facebook.com/brett.mcmicken Brett McMicken

    didn’t know he had stalked jimmy carter. i had heard that it had greatly upset jodie foster that he had shot president reagan in an attempt to impress her. also heard that jackie o was visiting someone in the same hospital at the time president reagan was taken there and she stayed and comforted nancy reagan.

    • AWomaninTX

      I heard in an interview that the events of that day is part of why she (Jodie Foster) plans to never do stage plays.
      I had not heard that about Jackie O., so thank you for sharing that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brett.mcmicken Brett McMicken

        i was trying to remember where i heard about jackie o and nancy reagan. my taxed memory wants to say it was a barbara walters interview with nancy reagan but i cannot say that for certain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brett.mcmicken Brett McMicken

    i gotta buy that book!

  • almarquardt

    I also remember Reagan saying before he went into surgery that he hoped all of the doctors were Republicans.

    • JR48

      That was hilarious and totally him.

  • Jack Deth

    I was home from work the day Reagan was shot. And was surprised at how many “unbiased” reporters in DC were predicting, near hoping for his death throughout the afternoon.

    The Metro cops and reporters also got Hinckley’s name wrong. Pronouncing it “Hunkle” for several hours.

    Though the Secret Service detail did everything right in protecting and getting the President out of the area quickly. Up to, and including an agent pulling an Uzi from under his Trench Coat aiming it up towards the surrounding rooftops and yelling: “Give me a f***ink target!!!” While several agents held Hinckley down and subdued him.

    Reagan caught a ricochet off the limo door that slipped under his vest. From a sub caliber piece whose barrel was too short for the frangible ammunition selected.

  • http://twitter.com/thetugboatphil TugboatPhil

    I was in between hitches in the Navy. I had gone back home to put a roof on Mom’s house. I had come down for a break and it had already happened. The 3 networks were covering it non-stop.

    I had just become aware during the previous year that just because I had grown up in West Virginia, it didn’t mean I had to be a Democrat. I was very worried until I heard he’d come out of surgery ok.

    I also recall the Al Haig, “I am in charge” moment. Even I knew that wasn’t supposed to happen.

    • JustLikeAnimals

      I was in a nuclear weapons training school. =)

    • stellatruman

      This was the turning point for me as well…growing up in Mass , in the Kennedy’s back yard had a certain tone that being a democrat was what was expected. I voted for the first time in 1980, fresh off the influence of the liberal school teachers. It was the only election in my life that I voted for a democrat…seeing Reagan turn this country around was eye opening..I was hoping for a similar turn around this past election…I wonder what fresh troll will mock me from mommy’s basement for posting this ?

      • http://twitter.com/thetugboatphil TugboatPhil

        I’m ashamed to admit that my first vote was for Carter. I saw the gutting of the military, which was already being neglected just after Vietnam. I was proud to vote for Reagan both times. I’ve never since had the enthusiasm voting for another candidate since, except for 2008. I was voting for Palin more than McCain.

  • $30423294

    What if this vermin said he did it because he wanted to please a conservative Christian?

    Well, he did it to impress a hard left-wing Hollywood activist, didn’t he?

    • Rightturn

      Oh come off it, he did it to impress some 18-year-old kid.

      • $30423294

        I didn’t mention the person’s name because the entire point of my post was it doesn’t matter why he did it. My side (don’t know if you’re on it) doesn’t jump to conclusions about motives.

        Easy there, quick-draw. We’re not all out to offend you.

  • nc

    I admit I was still a brain-dead lib at the time (don’t judge me, I didn’t even know any Republicans when I was growing up), but I remember being very upset that someone would try to assassinate our President. I may have been a LIV, but I had a moral compass.

    • Garth Haycock

      I can honestly say that despite my diametric opposition to everything that Obama stands for politically, I would be angry if something like this were to happen to him, for precisely the same reason you were upset about the attempt on Reagan’s life. He’s the POTUS. And dammit, nobody gets a pass for assassinating the POTUS.

      • JR48

        It doesn’t matter what the politics are at any given moment, the POTUS is still a man, still our nationally elected representative and has a family. Lots of sacrifice goes into that job but it shouldn’t include risking or losing your life.

      • camnpat


    • JR48

      Having different political beliefs doesn’t mean that you don’t have a moral compass, it means that you have different political beliefs.

      • Catchance

        That’s quite true. However, right now the people who want abortion on demand are those on the left.

    • nc

      I’m “replying” to myself to clear up a possible misconception about my “moral compass” statement. I didn’t say it to mean I was exceptional, but in fact that I WASN’T, that most people, whether they agreed politically or not, didn’t express the level of hate we see today. Maybe because we didn’t have computers and social media as means to anonymously express evil thoughts.

  • Wing_attack_Plan_R

    from ABC News that day … http://youtu.be/-B9nVmQOlRU

  • http://www.facebook.com/Pirateman57 George Duarte

    We will never see another Ronald Reagan,, we were blessed to have the one and only Ronald (the Gipper) Reagan. RIP Mr. President.

    • JustLikeAnimals

      It is truly a sad statement for our country that there are no real statesmen (or women) on the horizon who can seriously take up the mantle, not of liberalism or conservatism, but of making America great again. Sad, indeed.

  • bob

    Rest in peace Mr. President, we need a leader like you now more than ever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1130629591 Mark Youngkin

    I was in journalism school at the time. The Pope and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat were shot during the same quarter.

  • Garth Haycock

    I remember this like yesterday. I was a junior in high school, sitting in a civics class when the news broke. We spent the rest of the class in front of the TV watching the reports. For me, it was a surreal event, considering earlier in the school year we had discussed the JFK assassination and the effect it had on the US citizens. Then this happened and I knew exactly how many had felt back in 1963.

  • JR48

    I was at my desk working and it came over the radio. Bosses ran to turn on the television. Everyone was silent.

    Between Lennon, Reagan and the Pope, that was a bad period of time. Too much crazy going around.

    • waltzingmtilda

      Yep, I was around 10 or 11 when that all went down. Very crazy times.

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeBeq0i03bg Booker

    We won’t get another Reagan, but we will definitely find another great American patriot.

    • Charles Hammond Jr

      We’re gonna need to find someone MUCH BETTER than Reagan at this point.

  • RightThinking1

    What a guy…, and never lost his sense of humor. There was the famous quip when Nancy got into to see him, “I forgot to duck…”

  • Emily B

    I was not quite 4 years old, but I remember it very clearly. My parents LOVED Reagan and he was talked about quite a bit in our house. I can remember watching it on the news over and over. He was a great man and the best president!!

  • aegean1

    I saw a documentary about this event a while back, I forget what channel. But it had me riveted, as if it were happening right as I was watching it.

  • CatHerder

    3/30/81…my daughter was not quite four. That would have made me 29 and my wife 27. Neither of us had ever voted for a Republican yet. I was a journeyman carpenter and pulling down a wage that seemed like riches at the time. We had never heard the word ‘internet’ and computers were still as far as we knew the domain of universities and government agencies.

    Still, when the news came out all those dyed-in-the-wool Democrats around me fell silent. You don’t do this kind of thing. Not to the President of the United States, ever! I was the youngest guy on the crew, and we all were re-living the shock of the Kennedy assassination all over again. Yeah, I was just a kid back then, but if you were there, you never forget.

  • MissDiane47

    I remember that so well. I was in junior-high and had just arrived home from school; turned on the radio in my bedroom while getting ready to do homework. Talk about a major distraction … I ran downstairs and told my grandma to turn on the TV because President Reagan had been shot. Thank God he lived!!

    Then we got into a discussion about JFK and how his assassination affected us as a nation … I wasn’t born until after he died.

  • AWomaninTX

    I remember that day. My mother was so very scared.