Nightly News   |  April 06, 2012

Mementos from the Kennedys

In the memoir ‘Mrs. Kennedy & Me’ former secret service agent Clint Hill shares his memories of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who he was assigned to protect. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports.

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

>>> it was one of america's darkest days. a nation in grief over the assass nagdz of president john f. kennedy . but what was it like to be there? right there when the shots rang out? secret service agent clint hill spent 50 years trying to forget and only now has written a story of his four years as jackie kennedy 's closest protector. a time of exhilarating highs and heart wrenching lows.

>> that's the one thing that i can't get out of my mind, is that the picture of him lying in her lap with his head exposed to me. looking into the back of his head, into his brain, his eyes fixed, blood and brains and bone fragments all over the car, over mrs. kennedy , and myself.

>> the images america cannot forget are seared painfully in the mind of secret service agent clint hill , assigned to protect jackie kennedy t was hill who desperately climbed on to the trunk of the president's vehicle that day and for decades was tormented by the thought of what he could have done to stop it.

>> i looked in the eyes of those two children who had lost their father and the woman who had lost her husband and recognized that i was there, and i was unable to prevent what happened from happening.

>> hill says living with that guilt forced him into seclusion and a deep depression that's nearly cost him his life.

>> the doctor told me, either quit what you're doing or die. it's your choice. and i chose to live, so i quit drinking, quit smoking , and started to recover gradually. priceless.

>> in old boxes at his arlington, virginia home, he has precious mumeantoes of his time with the kennedys. mrs. kennedy 's schedule for that day in dallas, a sketch pad where she doodled drawings and her young son john john, did, too.

>> if he could get on a helicopter, he would go on air force one if given the opportunity, but sometimes they had to say sorry, you have to go back to the white house now.

>> mrs. kennedy suspected he wanted to be a pilot.

>> yes, based on his interest in everything that flew. she thought, i bet he would be a pilot some day.

>> president kennedy has just signed a proclamation authorizing an arms quarantine against keeba.

>> the strong willed mrs. kennedy wouldn't hear of being taken to a bomb shelter.

>> she very sternly backed up and said, let me tell you, mr. hill, if things get to that point, caroline and john and i are going to walk out on the south grounds and stand there, just like every other american, and see what happens.

>> she wanted to be with the president at that time.

>> that's right.

>> hill was right there as the kennedys jetsetted around the world. he describes a first lady who was spontaneous and mischievous, even sneaking cigarettes from time to time.

>> she was like a giddy teenager getting away with something. it was the first of many secrets we would keep with each other. what kind of secrets?

>> they wnt be secretive if i told you.

>> their bond was sealed in tragedy.

>> when you read the book you write about her with such admiration and affection. and almost, dare i say it, love, for her?

>> i have been accused of that's. i think that's a little bit too strong an emotion. yes, i admired her a great deal. i really respected her. i don't think you could really say that i loved her.

>> was she your friend?

>> very close friend. yes, we shared a lot of things together. we had a very, very deep bond between the two of us.

>> hill says he finally returned to dallas in 1990 and walked that route once again, finally realizing there was nothing he could have done to stop the bullets, but he said he has never stop feeling responsibility. the book is called "mrs. kennedy and me."