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When History, Destiny Converged

As the limo slid under Dupont Circle, however, Reagan began to spit up blood, and Parr quickly directed the driver to the nearest emergency room, at George Washington University Hospital. The trip took three minutes. Reagan wanted to walk in by himself.

"He hitched up his pants. I offered him my hand, and he didn't want it," Parr said. The president took a few steps and collapsed; agents helped him to a trauma table.

These days, Parr, 75 and long retired, thinks a lot about purpose and destiny; he is co-pastor of Festival Church, an ecumenical church in Adams Morgan. In time, Parr would tell the president that he had set his destiny "by impressing me as a kid."

But that afternoon, Parr remembered, he watched the doctors work, his heart sinking.

"I thought, 'My God, we've lost another one,' " he said.

News Begins to Unfold

Sarah Brady was home in Alexandria that afternoon, playing with her 2-year-old son, Scott. A chicken was cooking in the crockpot for supper. The past few months had been exciting for Brady and her husband, Jim Brady, the wisecracking press secretary to the new Republican president.

Jim Brady, then 40, a Chicago native and longtime Washington insider, had won his new job, despite, he would joke later, Nancy Reagan's edict that her husband's new spokesman be someone "young and handsome." Nicknamed "Bear," Brady was known for his outsize personality, his zest for life and his way with one-liners.

The television set was on in the Brady family room that afternoon, and a breaking news report said that someone had just shot at the president but that he was not hurt. Although she was alarmed, Sarah Brady had no idea how life had just been shattered. Further reports said her husband had died. Friends hurried over to take her to the hospital.

Arthur Kobrine, Jim Brady's surgeon, had shocking news for her. "I remember him standing there and saying: 'I'm going to go in. If I'm successful, I do know he'll never have any use of his left arm and very little use of his left leg, but he could very easily succumb to this operation,' " Sarah Brady said.

"There was nothing left for me. I mean, he laid it all out. And I said, 'We've got a little 2-year-old, you've got to keep him alive.' "

She went to a small room to telephone relatives. The first lady walked in and embraced her. Brady still did not know the president was wounded.

"I said something to her, like, 'I am so, so scared.' And she was shaking, and she said, 'So am I.' " And I just knew, nobody had to tell me, I knew he had been shot, too."

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