Thirty years ago, on March 30, 1981, my father, Ronald Reagan, went to the Washington Hilton to address the AFL-CIO. After the speech, he left the Hilton by the VIP exit, surrounded by aides and Secret Service agents. A small crowd lined the sidewalk—including one disturbed young man, John W. Hinckley, Jr. As my father waved, Hinckley pulled a revolver and fired six shots in 1.7 seconds.

Hinckley's aim was poor—but devastating. He hit press secretary James Brady, policeman Thomas Delahanty, and agent Timothy McCarthy. One bullet hit the armored flank of the limousine, ricocheted, and entered beneath my father's raised left arm. It stopped in his lung just an inch short of his heart.

Secret Service agent Jerry Parr shoved Dad into the limo, and the car sped away. When Parr saw the president coughing up blood, he ordered the driver to divert to George Washington University Hospital. Parr's decision saved my father's life.

Arriving at the hospital, Dad got out of the limo and walked into the building under his own power. Just inside the door, his knees buckled. "I can't breathe," he said. Agent Parr and the hospital staff helped him into the emergency room.
While the doctors and nurses worked on my father, he remained calm and unfailingly courteous. "I don't mean to trouble you," he said at one point, "but I'm having a hard time breathing."

Nancy entered the hospital less than ten minutes after Dad arrived. The doctors let Nancy come close, believing her presence would reassure him. Nancy later recalled that Dad looked ashen, and his lips were caked with blood. But he put her at ease by joking, "Honey, I forgot to duck."