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Observations placeholder

Reagan, Ronald – The assassination attempt and the white angels who encouraged him to live



Type of Spiritual Experience


On March 30th 1981, an assassination attempt was made on President Reagan’s life by John Hinckley jr.  Because it was a warm and muggy day President Reagan was not wearing his bullet proof vest.

Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy were struck by gunfire from would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton hotel. Although "close to death" upon arrival at George Washington University Hospital, Reagan was stabilized in the emergency room, then underwent emergency exploratory surgery. He recovered and was released from the hospital on April 11.

A description of the experience

The Faith of Ronald Reagan - By Mary Beth Brown

Mike Deaver, whose presidential car (a mobile communication center) had pulled up to the hospital just after the president’s car arrived, describes what he saw as President Reagan walked into the emergency room:

I saw Reagan get out of the car unaided, look to both sides, and give  tug to his pants.  I think he actually buttoned his suit jacket.  So far, so good.  He walked toward the emergency room doors unassisted, with a pair of agents at his sides, but as soon as he was through the doors, out of public view, the strength in his legs abandoned him

Reagan collapsed and was lifted onto a stretcher.  The nurses quickly pulled off his jacket and cut off his shirt.  Dr Price, an emergency room physician, later recounted what happened in Paul Thomsen’s Operation Rawhide.

I listened, but there was no sound in his left lung, and his blood pressure was double zero.  There was no pulse

The president was hovering near death.

Blood and other fluids were being forced into his system through three IV lines while a drainage tube was pouring blood out of his side.  Reagan’s systolic blood pressure rose to eighty.  Dr Price rolled the president over and noticed a small slit, like a button hole, under Reagan’s left armpit.  The doctor suspected that this was the bullet hole and had the area x-rayed.

President Reagan knew that doctors and nurses were working on him feverishly, fighting to save his life, but he was still having trouble breathing.  His skin had turned so pale Nancy Reagan remembers “He was the colour of paper – just as white as a sheet, with dried blood around his mouth”.

Reagan later recalled looking up from the gurney, trying to focus his eyes on the square ceiling tiles and praying.  While he was lying on the gurney, half conscious, he realised that someone was holding his hand.

It was a soft, feminine hand” he writes in his autobiography An American Life,  “I felt it come up and touch mine and then hold on tight to it.  It gave me a wonderful feeling.  Even now I find it difficult to explain how reassuring, how wonderful, it felt”.

He goes on to say “It must have been the hand of a nurse kneeling very close to the gurney, but I couldn’t see her.  I started asking ‘Who’s holding my hand?  Who’s holding my hand?

When he didn’t hear any response, Reagan said “Does Nancy know about us?

He continues, “Although I tried afterward to learn who the nurse was, I was never able to find her.  I had wanted to tell her how much the touch of her hand meant to me, but I was never able to do that”…….

In Angels don’t die, President Reagan’s daughter Patti, recounts seeing her father in the hospital the morning after the assassination attempt in 1981. 

He actually didn’t look frail; he looked almost ethereal.  There was a light in his eyes that made me think, then and still, that he saw something.  My mother has since told me he woke up at one point after the doctors had operated on him, unable to talk because there was a tube down his throat.  He saw figures in white standing around him and scrawled on a piece of paper, ‘I’m alive, aren’t I?’"

When my mother first told me, we discussed how logical it is to assume that the figures in white standing around my father, were the doctors and nurses who were tending him.  But maybe not, we said; maybe he did see angels.  We left it with a question mark.  Then I repeated it to a friend – a nurse – who pointed out to me that no one in a recovery room or in intensive care is in white; they’re all in screen scrubs……”


The source of the experience

Reagan, Ronald

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps