Praying for Reagan
WASHINGTON — President Ronald Reagan had indeed been shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel, and far more seriously hurt than the public was told at the time. Wounded in the chest, Reagan was in shock and would lose more than half his blood. The would-be assassin’s bullet was lodged just an inch from his heart.
Reports from Washington were sketchy, and Air Force Two did not have secure voice communication. When Secretary of State Alexander Haig called Vice President George H.W. Bush to alert him to the situation on March 30, 1981, they could barely hear each other over thick static.
As the plane made a quick stop in Austin to refuel, Bush prayed for President Reagan and the nation. He scribbled some notes on a flight information card, reflecting that it had taken about 20 minutes for the “enormity” of the situation to hit him.
He also granted an interview to one of his aides, Chase Untermeyer, to capture his thoughts.
The 56-year-old former oilman, member of Congress and CIA director had been bitter political adversaries with Reagan. But since joining Reagan’s ticket in the 1980 campaign, they had formed a personal bond.
Bush now considered the president a true friend. It pained him to watch replays on TV of the shooting. “You see a guy get into a car, waving,” Bush told Untermeyer, “and you think, ‘How could anybody shoot that nice guy?’”
Los Angeles Times
Former presidents react to the passing of President George H.W. Bush, left: “His administration was marked by grace, civility, and social conscience.” — Jimmy Carter, right. “I just loved him.” — Bill Clinton, second from right.