March 30th, 2005


This Day In History, 1981: President Reagan Shot

Here's another one of which I have personal memories. Personal comment after the LJ-cut, below the second row of asterisks:

March 30, 1981

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C., hotel by a deranged drifter named John Hinckley Jr.

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At the time this happened I was 11 years old and in sixth grade, my last year of elementary school. It was a frightening event; although my family hadn't voted for Reagan, we were all worried about his health because, after all, he was the president. At the time, there was an urban legend that all presidents elected in a year ending with "0" died in office -- in fact, that was true since Abraham Lincoln -- and it seemed at first as if Reagan would all victim to that as well. The fact that he didn't seemed to break the "curse."

Other fallout: after I saw the movie "Contact" (1997) I wanted to send Jodie Foster a fan letter. I decided against it; given her experiences, she's probably the last person in the world who wants to receive fan letters.

And then there's the whole Alexander Haig thing. People who were alive at the time might recall Secretary of State Haig seeming to seize power after Reagan was shot, with his infamous quote "I'm in charge here." Well, a few years later I read an article in which he defended himself, claiming that all he was trying to do was reassure the American people that someone was in charge, making sure we would all be safe in case of an attack from the Russians or something equally disastrous.

Well, you know something? I believe him now. Because a few years ago, I got to see the clip of him on The History Channel. And he's talking about where people are, and he very casually says things like, this person is there, the Vice-President is one his way back from Texas, I'm in charge here... He wasn't trying to take power, he was trying to let people know that the government would continue to run smoothly, even in the wake of the shooting.

But, of course, all this is now in the past. Which is what This Day in History is all about.