Clint Hill remembers an explosive noise over his right shoulder, then looking at the back of the limousine carrying a fallen president. He ran toward the vehicle.
“I think about it every day,” Hill told a crowd Tuesday night at Bismarck State College. “It never goes away.”
The former Secret Service agent, a native of Washburn, was with in the motorcade around President John F. Kennedy the day Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Hill had been assigned to protect first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
He was the keynote speaker at a symposium on John F. Kennedy: “The Kennedy Legacy: 50 Years Later,” which runs through Thursday at BSC’s National Energy Center of Excellence. He recounted the day of the assassination for an audience of about 600 at BSC on Tuesday.
Hill matter-of-factly told how John Kennedy Jr. had wanted to go along on the trip to Dallas and recounted how the president asked a Secret Service agent to look after his son until he returned from that fateful trip to Texas.
Hill talked about the arrival at the hospital, of trying to get Mrs.Kennedy to let go of her husband’s body, knowing it was because she did not want anyone to see the gruesome state of the body. He said he took his suit jacket off to cover the president to get her to let go.
Hill was also the one who had to tell Robert Kennedy of his brother’s death.
“I didn’t want to tell him that his brother was dead,” Hill said. But when Robert Kennedy asked how bad it was, Hill told him “It’s as bad as it could get.”
Lisa McCubbin, the co-author of Hill’s latest book “Five Days in November,” said sharing his story has been a healing process for a lot of people and for him as well.
“It was fabulous. It brought tears to my eyes at times,” said Joyce Ulmer of Bismarck, who heard Hill speak on Tuesday night, along with her two sisters, Mary Ann Filibeck of Lincoln and Janice Filibeck of Glen Ullin.
“What he must have gone through, thinking he should have protected the president. He did what he could do,” Mary Ann Filibeck said
The sisters all said the talk made them look up to Hill.
“He is a history book in himself, coming forward and bringing so much of this out,” Mary Ann Filibeck said. “It makes all of us feel personally connected.”
Mary Ann Filibeck said it was cute learning John Kennedy Jr., whom the Secret Service was teaching to salute, was always doing it with his left hand instead of his right. Hill got a chuckle from the room when he recounted that it took a Marine commander only 15 seconds to teach the boy to do it correctly on the day of his father’s funeral.
“I thought Mr. Hill’s presentation riveting and really took us back to that day,” said Larry Klemer, another member of the audience.
“Mr. Hill is one of the heroes of the era,” said Susan Williams, who also heard the speech. “I was awestruck by Mr. Hill’s presence, how he presents the story of the event.”
“I would listen to this again because it was history relived,” Janice Filibeck said.