James Brady didn’t just save Reagan, he saved my mother, too


This March 30, 1981 file photo shows a Secret Service agent with an automatic weapon watching over James Brady, the president’s secretary, after he was wounded in an attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan in Washington. (Ron Edmonds/AP)

I’ve always felt a personal connection to James Brady. He passed away Monday, and sometimes I wonder if I or my mother would be alive if he hadn’t taken a bullet for President Reagan.

I was born in George Washington University hospital eight days before John Hinckley tried to kill Reagan to impress Jodie Foster. When the shooting happened, I was still in the hospital with my mother. My maternal grandmother had come to D.C. to support her third daughter during childbirth. But when Reagan was rushed to GW hospital, all the doctors were pulled off the floor. For a young woman still struggling with labor complications, the leader of the free world was a bigger deal.

It happened in the afternoon, and my grandmother had left the hospital temporarily to get lunch. When she got back, the building was on lockdown. Her daughter was effectively dying inside the building, and her grandson was barely more than a week old. My mother still talks about how traumatic it was to this day.


Former White House Press Secretary James Brady gives a thumbs-up to everyone as he visits the White House press briefing room on March 30, 2011. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

It was the ultimate confluence of federal and local Washington. But what if Brady hadn’t been there? What if Reagan — “Rawhide” as he was known by the Secret Service — was more seriously injured? Would those doctors have ever returned? No way to know.

Brady was paralyzed and became the face of the anti-gun movement in later years. His courage will always be remembered, but for me, I have to thank him on the day of his death.

He didn’t just save Reagan’s life. I think he saved my mother’s, too.

 

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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