|Agent Tom Wells escorts Caroline Kennedy to school after the White House ,|
photo: "The Kennedy Detail"
Last night I watched a Discovery channel documentary on "The Kennedy Detail," in which the secret service agents who were assigned to President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas were interviewed about their experiences in living with, and protecting, the President and his family.
The documentary was heartbreaking. These once rugged men, now in their 70's and 80's sharing their perspectives about being a part of the Kennedy family while he was in office. What was particularly impressive, is that Kennedy knew each of their names: Gerald S. Blaine; Toby Chandler; David Grant; Clinton J. Hill; Paul E Landis, Jr; Winston Lawson; Ronald Pontius; and Thomas Wells.
This, apparently, is not the norm for the secret service.
Clinton Hill, assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy, reflected on her thoughtfulness after the assassination. Hill remarked that, on the plane going back to Washington, Jackie Kennedy requested to see him. "What will become of you, now?" Jackie asked. Fighting back tears, his response was that he would be just fine.
Interspersed with the interview was rare footage of the agents' with John Jr, and Caroline Kennedy. Holding hands, going to the Beach, hovering over them at family events. These men explained that the pay was substandard, even for the 60's, but they were so proud to serve the President. They all said they were treated "like family."
What moved me the most that each agent, after 50 years, still has to hold back tears when asked about November 22nd, in Dallas.
The gruesome details still play back daily. For example, why Jackie Kennedy crawled out the back of the Lincoln sedan. It was disclosed that Jackie wanted to "make him whole." Apparently, after the magic bullet, (that hit Kennedy in the skull), brain matter and chunks of skull exploded on the boot of the sedan. Jackie allegedly crawled out the back of the speeding car to collect the bits of skull.
How devastating to hear all this again.
I understand that the President was hit in the skull, but to hear the magnitude of the damage done to Kennedy, (a palm sized portion of his skull, and all the brain matter on that side were scooped out like ice cream), was too much to process.
The reflected on the President's body, laid out at the White House, prior to the public viewing. Jackie asked for a pair of scissors to open the casket, to cut off a lock of his hair.
Details shared regarding Robert Kennedy and Jackie, going back to the grave site the same day following the funeral; to kneel and pray in private.
I was only 12 years' old when we lost John Kennedy. However, I remember exactly what I was doing when the news was announced.
Having lived through this tragedy is still a gift. To have lived through his Presidency was remarkable and most memorable.
I think about the Kennedy tragedies, that have continued since then; the Robert Kennedy assassination, John Jr's plane crash, Jackie's struggle with cancer and untimely death.
Whoever said the Kennedy's were cursed was probably correct. As much as the Kennedy family has acquired, a black cloud follows them throughout life.
I am glad I was privy to see this documentary. I don't want to ever forget the most charming man and my favorite President of the century.
He only lived 45 short years, but he packed a lot of living and wisdom into those years.
In the end, the agent that questioned, "what we could have done better?" concluded remorsefully:
"there was nothing at all that could be done to save him."