Nightly News   |  November 18, 2013

Kennedy’s Secret Service agent gives account of that day in Dallas

He was assigned to protect first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Then, something deadly happened on the motorcade route in Dallas. Hear his emotional account of the moment John F. Kennedy was assassinated. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports.

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

>>> we are back, and tonight we begin our coverage of the 50th anniversary coming up this friday of the assassination of president kennedy in dallas . tonight the story of a man who witnessed it up close. former secret service agent clint hill still haunted by the events of that day, described in a new book "five days in november," which comes out tomorrow. tonight agent hill returns to dallas with savannah guthrie for a rare and personal look back on that day.

>> 50 years ago this week the kennedys came to dallas .

>> there is mrs. kennedy , and dallas turns out for them.

>> he is not in his limousine. is he reaching across the fence, shaking hands.

>> it all changed in an instant.

>> chaos, confusion, and for the men willing to take a bullet for the president, utter desperation.

>> the secret service men on top. that agent was 31-year-old clint hill , a man still struggling with what might have been.

>> a tragic situation, and something that just never goes away. it's always eating at me.

>> we first met hill in 2012 . he told us how he was right by mrs. kennedy 's side as the nation mourns.

>> it must have broken your heart.

>> it still does.

>> now five decades later we return to dallas to retrace those final fateful steps.

>> it was the usual practice to have open air motorcades.

>> he didn't even like you agents hanging on to the back of the car.

>> no, because he didn't want it to appear that there was anything between him and the people.

>> is this where the crowds were really getting thick?

>> this is where the crowds really started to build and grow. they were very enthusiastic and very friendly.

>> reporter: but the crowds began to thin as the motorcade turned towards the plaza.

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

>> i was on the car behind the presidential car 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. as i turned towards the noise, my eyes caught the back of the president's car, and i saw him grab at his throat like this and move violently to his left towards mrs. kennedy , and i knew something was wrong, so i jumped off my position on the car and ran towards the presidential vehicle.

>> the limousine might have been hit by gunfire.

>> it hit the president in the head, and when that happened, she turned and stood up on the back of the car.

>> that famous moment when she reaches 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. i got up on the trunk, and i got ahold of her, and i put her in the back seat, and i looked down, and that's when i saw the president, the right side of his face was up, and i could see his eyes.

>> you knew at that moment this is a fatal --

>> it was my assumption that it was a fatal shot, that he was dead, and i turned and gave a thumbs down to the follow-up car to let them know how serious the situation was.

>> mrs. kennedy said something in those moments.

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

>> the president of the united states is dead.

>> reporter: it was a moment that changed not just a nation, but a young man forever.

>> you know in your head there's nothing you could have done.

>> yes.

>> but your heart?

>> that's the problem. it's that aching sensation that, oh, if only.

>> how about that after all these years, like it was yesterday. savannah guthrie with clint hill tomorrow night as our week-long coverage continues. tom brokaw 's interview with the widow of the dallas police officer who was also killed that day.