The Shooting of Ronald Reagan. I dropped the remote. It's the same reaction I always have when I see footage of John Hinckley's misdeed, for it never fails to bring me back to that March afternoon in 1981 when the network suits broke into programming and unfurled a fresh historical document at thirty frames a second. I was but a 14 year old punk that day, not yet a news junkie. But the unbelievable images radiating from every set left me positively thunderstruck. I simply couldn't imagine watching the world change through a viewfinder.
Today, I have a slightly better idea of what that might feel like - though certainly I've never recorded anything that cataclysmic. No so for ABC's Hank Brown, CBS's Charlie Wilson and NBC's Shelly Fielman. They were the three network photographers waiting outside the Washington Hilton that day when a misguided drifter tried to impress a movie actress by spraying the President and his aides with gunfire. Twenty-eight years later, it still makes no sense - but if ever there was a definitive breakdown of that afternoon, this National Geographic special is it. I can't recommend it highly enough, if for no other reason the above photograph. In it, the three network news crews smile happily, minutes before Reagan emerged from the hotel. A closer look reveals the would be assassin himself (third from the left) standing idly by, contemplating madness.
Chilling, no matter whose lens you sling.