TODAY

TODAY   |  November 18, 2013

Secret Service agent recalls JFK shooting ‘every day’

Clint Hill, who as Jackie Kennedy’s Secret Service agent was in the limousine with her and President Kennedy the day JFK was assassinated, talks about the horrors of that moment and how it changed his life forever.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the start of our week long look at the assassination of jfk 50 years later.

>> of course only a hand full of people know firsthand what it was like to be in the president's car in the immediate moment afs ts after the fatal shots range out. he writes about it in a new book called five days in november. recently he travelled with us back to dallas .

>> it appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route. something has happened in the motorcade route.

>> reporter: on a clear day in dallas everything changed.

>> it appears as though someone in the limousine might have been hit by the gunfire.

>> reporter: the unthinkable happened. the nation's young president gunned down as the motorcade moved through the city streets . frantic moments of shock and dis despair.

>> there's a secret serviceman on top of the car.

>> reporter: it was secret service agent clint hill who leapt on to the back of the presidential limo. a moment that haunted him every year, every day, every decade since it passed. it took 12 years before clint hill said anything publicly about that day to 60 minutes .

>> you got there in less than two seconds, clint. you couldn't have gotten there. you surely don't have any sense of guilt about that.

>> yes, i certainly do. i have a great deal of guilt about that.

>> reporter: and it would be 37 more years before he emerged from his anguish telling us for the first time in 2012 .

>> went into a very deep depression and went into seclusion. cut myself off from friends and family.

>> reporter: hill told us how he was right there as the nation mourned a president and a family buried a husband and father.

>> that must have broken your heart.

>> it still does.

>> reporter: with the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaching, clint hill agreed to return with us to dallas and retrace those final faithful steps.

>> and the president and mrs. kennedy have arrived at dallas love field .

>> reporter: we started at love field where the president and mrs. kennedy first landed that day.

>> and there is mrs. kennedy . the first lady stepping from the plane.

>> reporter: a spot agent hill hadn't set foot on in 50 years.

>> where were you that day? where did the plane come in?

>> air force one was positioned on the tarmac about, oh, maybe 150 feet from this fence.

>> here comes the president now. in fact, he's not in his limousine he is reaching across the fence shaking hands.

>> was that planned?

>> no but it's always considered because that was the way he was.

>> and the trip to downtown dallas is underway.

>> reporter: we made the 7 mile journey between the airport and downtown dallas .

>> you can see the crowd is absolutely going wild .

>> is this where the crowd was getting thick?

>> this is where the crowd started to build and grow. they were very enthusiastic and very friendly. no indication of any animosity what so ever.

>> reporter: the motorcade was nearly complete when they turned from main street and then the site of the texas school book depository .

>> you round this corner not knowing lee harvey oswald was right up there.

>> i was behind the president's car on the left running board on the front of it when all of a sudden as we got down here a little bit farther there was a loud explosive noise that came over my right shoulder and i knew something was wrong so i jumped off my position and ran toward the presidential vehicle. there was a third shot and it hit the president in the head and it just caused brain and blood and bone fragments. came on to mrs. kennedy and myself and when that happened she turned and got up on the back of the car.

>> that famous moment.

>> yes.

>> right here where she reach across the trunk. no one understood what she was doing. you knew.

>> i knew. she was trying to gather material that had come off the president's head. she was reaching for it and i got up on the trunk and i got ahold of her and i put her in the backseat and i looked down and that's what i saw was the right side of his face was up and i could see his eyes were fixed.

>> you knew in that moment this was a fatal --

>> it was my assumption that it was a fatal shot that he was dead and i turned to give a thumbs down to let them know how serious the situation was.

>> mrs. kennedy said something in those moments.

>> she said jack, jack. what have they done to you? and she said i have his brains in my hand. and then she said, jack, jack, i love you, jack.

>> it must have been a shocking scene to behold.

>> it was horrible. 50 years and i still have that imagine in my mind.

>> and you carry this place with you i guess the rest of your life.

>> yes, i do. it's one thing i'll never rid myself of. but i have come to terms with it and that's the best i can do.

>> he was an incredible classy and dig a person but he is still haunted by that moment.

>> they are sworn to protect the president. they are trained to protect the president and if something goes wrong they almost always blame themselves. and here he was not even in the same car and still thinking what could have done differently.

>> to see how he ran on top of the vehicle to get to the first lady and the president.

>> he told me all the agents that worked that day returned to dallas together and going back to the place and reliving it together helped all of them do a lot of healing. and i should mention his book includes how they grieved following. he was right there.

>> did he maintain a relationship with mrs. kennedy ?

>> he did for a few years afterward. he continued to protect her. they were very close. they we are personal friends and time wore on and she got remarried and he hasn't seen her since robert kennedy 's funeral was the last time he saw her.

>> we went down to dallas recently to shoot some of these stories. it is odd when you look down on elm street and you see the xs on the pavement where they believe the fatal shots hit the motorcade. part of me thinks it's important for history and another part of me thinks it's too morbid.

>> i told you growing up in dallas fort worth they would take us on field trips and you drive-by it every day and you think about it every time. we have a poll on today.com where we ask people do you believe a conspiracy around the assassination of john f. kennedy . 71% in our poll believe in the conspiracy theories around the assassination.

>> tomorrow on today, another eyewitness to that moment in history. the woman that took that photo that's become famous among conspiracy theorists . we met up with her in dallas for her first broadcast television interview in 50 years. how she found herself in the middle of one of the most dramatic events in history. we'll meet her and talk to her tomorrow morning.

>> coming up,