|President Ronald Reagan||Thomas Delahanty||Dr. Benjamin Aaron|
|Vice President George Bush||Tim McCarthy||Nurse Kathy Paul|
|Richard V. Allen||Agent Jerry Parr||Nurse Marisa Mize|
|Alexander Haig||Dr. Joseph Giordano||John W. Hinckley Jr.|
President Ronald Reagan
After a successful career in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan viewed his presidency as the best role of his life. But the most dramatic scene of his eight-year term was completely unscripted: just sixty-nine days after his inauguration, he was shot and almost killed. Thanks to Secret Service agents and skilled doctors—as well as his own relentless optimism and tough physique—the seventy-year-old man code-named “Rawhide” survived. Ever the entertainer, he even managed a few memorable hospital-bed quips.
Agent Jerry Parr
At age nine, Jerry Parr watched a movie called The Code of the Secret Service, starring Ronald Reagan as a dashing federal agent. From that day on, Parr dreamed of joining the Secret Service, and he did so in 1962. On March 30, 1981, he was head of the president’s security detail and at Reagan’s side when a deranged gunman opened fire outside the Washington Hilton hotel. Parr’s quick actions saved Ronald Reagan’s life.
Del Quentin Wilber interviews agent Jerry Parr:
|Watch an interview with agent Jerry Parr:
Dr. Joseph Giordano
Joe Giordano never intended to become a trauma surgeon. But soon after arriving at George Washington University Hospital, the vascular specialist was instructed by his boss to overhaul the treatment of trauma patients, and in 1979 GW was certified as a level-1 trauma center. Just two years later, Giordano’s efforts—such as establishing trauma protocols and ensuring that his surgeons and nurses received the most up-to-date training—played a key role in saving Ronald Reagan’s life.
Watch an interview with Dr. Joseph Giordano:
|Listen to an interview with Dr. Joseph Giordano:
John W. Hinckley Jr.
The son of a wealthy business executive from Texas, John Hinckley was no match for his overachieving brother and sister: after college, he had trouble holding down jobs and grew increasingly disturbed. In March 1981, he embarked on a cross-country odyssey driven by his obsession with the actress Jodie Foster. After seeing the movie Taxi Driver, he became convinced that he could impress Foster by assassinating Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States.
Read more about John Hinckley
George Bush served as the 43rd Vice President of The United States, and later as the 41st President of The United States. After John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, Bush, second in command by the presidential line of succession, was in Dallas, Texas, and flew back to Washington immediately. Reagan’s cabinet convened in the White House Situation Room, where they discussed various issues, including the availability of the nuclear football. When Bush’s plane landed, his aides advised him to proceed directly to the White House by helicopter, as an image of the government still functioning despite the attack. Bush rejected the idea, responding, “Only the President lands on the South Lawn.”
Richard V. Allen
Richard V. Allen was the United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan until January 1982. He served as a senior staff member of President Nixon’s National Security Council in 1968 and served various Republican administrations up to and including that of President Reagan.
Listen to an interview with Richard Allen:
A United States Army general, Haig served as the United States Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and White House Chief of Staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He also served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the second-highest ranking officer in the Army, and as Supreme Allied Commander Europe commanding all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.
Watch a clip from Alexander Haig’s press conference:
Dr. Benjamin Aaron
A surgeon in the U.S. Navy for twenty–two years, Dr. Aaron was head of GW’s cardiovascular and thoracic unit at the time of Reagan’s assassination attempt. Aaron ultimately made the decision to operate on President Reagan when the bleeding from Reagan’s chest would not stop.
Jim achieved a lifelong career goal when President Ronald Reagan appointed him Assistant to the President and White House Press Secretary in January of 1981. His service, however, was cut short on March 30, 1981, when John Hinckley, attempted to assassinate the President, and shot both President Reagan, James, and two law enforcement officers. James suffered a serious head wound that left him partially paralyzed for life. Although James never worked as press secretary after the shooting, he kept the title for the remainder of President Reagan’s presidency. Since leaving the White House, James has spent countless hours lobbying with his wife Sarah, Chair of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Handgun Control), for common sense gun laws.
A DC Police officer, Delahanty was wounded during during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Since the bullet had ricocheted off his spinal cord after striking his neck, he suffered permanent nerve damage to his left arm. Delahanty was cited for heroism for his valiant effort to protect the President, and was ultimately forced to retire from the Washington police force due to his disability.
Secret Service agent McCarthy famously turned into the line of fire to protect President Reagan, and was hit by one of John Hinckley’s bullets. Surgeons at George Washington University Hospital successfully removed the round from McCarthy’s abdomen, and he fully recovered. McCarthy received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982 in recognition of his bravery.
Paul was a 27-year-old nurse in the GW emergency room when Reagan arrived and then collapsed on his way to the trauma bay. Her hands shook as she stripped off his clothes; Reagan appeared to be in such bad shape that Paul was worried he was not going to survive.
Watch an interview with Nurse Kathy Paul:
Listen to an interview with Nurse Kathy Paul:
When Mize showed up for work as a nurse in the GW hospital recovery room at 11 p.m. March 30, 1981, she discovered she had only one patient: the president. She spent much of the night talking with and comforting the president as he jotted notes to the nursing staff and was impressed by Reagan’s humor and modesty.
Listen to an interview with Nurse Marisa Mize: