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Remembering the Gipper

Iíll let others recap Reaganís life and accomplishments, his successes and failures. I am an expert on exactly one area of Reaganís life and legacy, and that is in my memories of him. It is to that I will speak.

From an early age, I was interested in politics. I remember being in elementary school and pulling fiercely for Carter. Then, four years later, just as fiercely for his removal. In 1980, at the tender age of 13, I pushed for George Bush, then supported Reagan when he defeated my guy, then took him on as his veep.

I know exactly where I was when I heard President Reagan had been shot. I was on the bus, coming home from Junior High School. I raced off the bus to my motherís car, and demanded she turn on the radio so I could hear the latest. I obsessively tracked down the news magazines for more information. I analyzed every single diagram I could, committing every detail of the shooting: John Hinckley firing the shots, wounding Reagan in the armpit. Others were also hit: Press Secretary James Brady in the head, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy in the stomach, and DC Police Officer Thomas Delahanty in the neck. Reagan seemed to make a full recovery, but some of those closest to him said he was never quite the same after being shot and nearly killed.

I saw the video of the shooting over and over, and can still see it in my mind. Two elements are permanently branded in my brain: McCarthy, at the first sign of danger, spinning to face the shots head-on, making himself as big a target as possible, and crumpling when he succeeded in his mission; and a second agent, whose name I never learned, who pulled a submachine gun out of nowhere and was instantly taking command of the situation.

That showed me just what amazing people we have in the Secret Service. Here they were, being shot at, and they still kept their focus on two key points: protecting the president, and taking the assailant alive. They did both.

Then a couple years later, President Reagan came to give a speech in Concord, New Hampshire, and my school (along with a lot of others) bused us all down to see and hear him. I had to demonstrate that my camera was actually a camera, so I took a picture Ė promptly pissing off the Secret Service agent whose picture I took.

I couldnít get any closer than a couple hundred yards of Reagan, but it was powerful nonetheless. While he stood on the steps of the State House, I was outside the main gate, trying to explain some of his statements to an exchange student from Norway. The main one I remember was the graduated income tax, and what it meant when he said he wanted to lower the tax rates.

I never got a chance to vote for Reagan. I turned 18 in October of 1985. I wish I had had the chance.

I think Fox News is saying it best: Mourning In America.

Love him or loathe him, one cannot diminish his tremendous role in our history. Bow your heads, for a giant has fallen this day.


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Comments (4)

I moved the picture post to... (Below threshold)

I moved the picture post to the top of the page (for the rest of the day) and linked to this one for commentary.

I have collated some tribut... (Below threshold)

I have collated some tributes on my blog- including one from Thatcher

Wow, we're really close in ... (Below threshold)

Wow, we're really close in age. I was 18 in February 1986 so I didn't get a chance to vote for Reagan either. But I have a great picture of me and my college buddies counting the electoral votes for Bush Sr. in Nov. 1988 (Reagan's third term).

I was working as a photogra... (Below threshold)

I was working as a photographer for my home town newspaper back in Michigan the day Reagan was shot. My boss and I grabbed our stuff and hit the street. One of the first group of people we asked their opinion for...we were floored:

"I hope he DIES!" These two women had five kids with them, and one of them was very pregnant with another. They were black, and they hated Reagan's guts, you could see it in their eyes. Such hatred for a man who just took office only two months prior just seemed incomprehensible to me.

So today's LLL reaction to Reagan's passing doesn't surprise me one bit.




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