Among President Ronald Reagan’s accomplishments is the distinction of being the first U.S. Commander In Chief to survive an attempted assassination via automobile. That’s right, blame the car.
He was hit by a bullet on March 30, 1981 outside of the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C., en route to the presidential wheels after he had delivered a speech to members of the AFL-CIO.
Sure, someone named John Hinckley, Jr., pulled the trigger and fired six shots in an attempt to take down the president (code named Rawhide). White House Press Secretary James Brady, D.C. police officer Thomas Delehanty, and Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy were injured by three of the bullets; a fourth went astray and two bullets hit the limo, nicknamed “Stagecoach.”
It was the sixth shot fired that ricocheted off the armored Lincoln Continental and struck the president. The bullet lodged in his lung, very near his heart. Surgeons at George Washington University Hospital were able to remove the bullet and save Reagan’s life.
The 1972 vehicle at the center of the attack has a place in history among the Presidential Limousines displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.
The impressive presidential parade includes the “Bubbletop” sedan used by Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, and a horse-drawn brougham that carried Theodore Roosevelt. And then there’s the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
On one visit to the museum, as I was gazing at the Kennedy limo, a woman decked out in a Green Bay Packers shirt approached the roped off vehicle and stood uncomfortably within my comfort zone and informed me, “That’s not really it.”
When she repeated the comment I assured her that we were, indeed, looking at the very limo that had rolled through the streets of Dallas carrying JFK and Jackie on that fateful day in 1963.
She argued that the Kennedys rode in a convertible, and this car had a roof. I explained that the limo had been modified after the shooting.
She started to rant about how unauthentic the car was, and how other artifacts in the museum were also not the genuine articles, and that the moon landing had been faked.
Okay, she didn’t mention the moon landing but I’m sure she would have given the chance. Luckily a man and two kids, similarly dressed in Green Bay team gear, joined Mrs. Packers Fan at the display and distracted her.
I made like a banana and split.
Story and photos are copyright Kath Usitalo and may not be used without permission