JFK's Secret Service agents write about guilt, events leading to assassination in "Kennedy Detail"
TAMPA - Everyone can pinpoint a moment in life we wish we could change; details we often dwell on.
Three United States Secret Service Agents have this in common. Their regrets start in Tampa in November of 1963.
"It was sunny outside,” Blaine remembers. "We had 28 miles of motorcade. We had an appearance at Lopez Field, which has been replaced by the Steinbrenner family and also the National Guard Armory."
Agent Gerald Blaine was working the President's Secret Service detail that day along what was once called Grand Central Avenue.
"All the sudden he looked over his shoulder and saw the agents riding on the back of the car. He tapped the agent-in-charge on the shoulder and said "Have the Ivy League Charlatans drop back to the follow-up car,'" according to Blaine. "The President said essentially, 'look, my political style is to be with the people and if I have agents hovering over me, it detracts from that.'"
The President's orders, given to Agent Blaine and Secret Service Agent Chuck Zboril, along what is now Kennedy Boulevard, set the stage for the tragedy that unfolded 100 yards after a slow turn onto Elm Street in Dallas, Texas.
"We had the top off because the weather conditions were such that it was a beautiful day,” said Hill. He says there were a lot of people hanging out of windows and on balconies.
Agent Clint Hill's Secret Service detail was to protect Mrs. Kennedy. His regrets are he couldn't do more.
"I heard an explosive noise from the right rear," recounted Hill. "What I saw was the President grabbing his throat. So I jumped off the follow-up car, ran toward the Presidential vehicle,” he said. "The driver accelerated, the car starting moving forward, causing me to slip. I regained my foothold but before I did a third shot rang out."
Agent Hill has spent nearly fifty years dissecting those six seconds.
"I was the only one who was in a position to do anything,” Hill said. "If I had been a second and a half faster, quicker, I'd a been there in time.”
Agent Zboril was in Tampa, but not Dallas, and still shoulders guilt.
"My shift was on-duty that day and I had the temporary assignment to go to Atoka and I thought if I had been there maybe history would have been a little different,” said Agent Zboril.
"That was the terrible thing when he was assassinated, we all had the guilty feeling about it and felt that we had failed," Agent Blaine told us.
These three Secret Service Agents still dwell on these details, the kind that changed them -- and history.
"It never gets any easier," said Agent Hill.
The Secret Service Agents will be signing copies of their book "The Kennedy Detail" Friday night at 7 PM at the Carrollwood Barnes and Noble on North Dale Mabry.
Editor's Note: Some images used in the video are courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times archives.
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