|Download For $1.99: - March 30, 1981 - CBS News Special Reports - Gordon Skene Sound Collection|
March 30, 1981 – Starting off normal, unremarkable in so many ways – but by mid-morning East Coast time, pandemonium had broken out. President Reagan, on his way out of the Washington Hilton, where he had just finished delivering an address to a group of trade unionists at the AFofL/CIO National Conference Of Building and Construction Trades, shots rang out. The assailant, 25 year old John Hinckley Jr. fired at the President, who was no more than a few feet from his waiting limousine. Hinckley sprayed the area and wounded several Secret Service Agents as well as seriously wounding Press Secretary James Brady before the President was hustled into his car. What no one knew at the time was that the President was wounded himself – a single bullet puncturing his lung.
In the confusion, Hinckley was wrestled to the ground while the President was taken out of harms way. When it was learned the Presidential motorcade was heading to the George Washington Hospital, rather than back to the White House, a new wave of panic erupted, as reporters scrambled to find out whatever shred of news they could get. Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced to the gathering reporters that he was, for the moment, in charge and that order would be restored.
But as the story was unfolding, it was clear all was not as it first seemed – that there was a real possibility President Reagan was in worse condition than had been initially indicated. James Brady was seriously wounded and it was wondered if he would survive, as was the condition of one of the Secret Service agents w ho stood put himself between the President and the would-be assailant.
It was a nail-biting day, and by the end of it, there were more questions than answers. But the President had survived an assassination attempt and only time would clear up the fog of uncertainty.
Here is the first 2 hours of reports via CBS Radio News and the storm of confusion which took place on March 30, 1981.