These Few Precious Days 1
"Jack, Jack, Jack! Can You Hear Me?"
NOVEMBER 22, 1963
She would always remember the roses. Three times that day before they got to Dallas, she feigned delight as someone presented her with the yellow roses for which Texas was so famous. "Only in Dallas," Jackie said, "I was given red roses. How funny, I thought - red roses for me." Soon, the backseat of their car would be strewn with blood-soaked rose petals - a surreal image she would never be able to erase from her mind. But for now, as they basked in the noonday sunlight and cheers from the crowds that lined the streets, Jack and Jackie seemed happier - and closer - than they had ever been.
The forty-six-year-old president and his thirty-four-year-old first lady exchanged one final glance. And then, in an instant, it all ended.
The look on Jack's still-boyish face the moment the first bullet struck him in the back of the neck, severing his windpipe and exiting his throat, would haunt Jackie's dreams for the rest of her life. "He looked puzzled," she later said. "I remember he looked as if he just had a slight headache."
For a split second, Jackie thought the crack she had heard was the sound of a motorcycle backfiring - until she realized she was watching, as if in slow motion, the president's head begin to pull apart. "I could see a piece of his skull coming off," she recalled. "It was flesh-colored, not white. I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head. Then he slumped in my lap."
Texas governor John Connally, riding in the jumpseat in front of the president, had also been seriously wounded. "Oh no, no, no," he yelled, "they're going to kill us all!" Connally's wife, Nellie, who with her husband was now covered with blood and bits of brain matter from JFK's head wound, looked back at the first lady. "I have his brains," Jackie said as she sat staring for a full seven seconds, "in my hands!"
The driver of the presidential limousine floored the accelerator, and the "sensation of enormous speed" gave Jackie a sudden jolt of adrenaline. It also nearly dislodged Secret Service agent Clint Hill from his tenuous perch on the rear step; ever since the first shot rang out, Hill, who had been riding in the backup car, had sprinted to catch up. He finally reached the president's Lincoln just as the third shot struck, spraying Hill as well with bits of bone and brain matter.
What Hill then witnessed along with a breathless nation was something Jackie herself would not remember. Numb with shock and panic, Jackie clambered onto the slippery trunk of the Lincoln. To many, it appeared that she was trying to reach out to Agent Hill and pull him onto the car. In fact, she was grasping for a large chunk of the president's skull. Terrified that the first lady would now tumble off the back of the speeding vehicle, Hill pushed her back into her seat as the shard from JFK's skull flew into the street.
With the 190-pound Hill now sprawled over her, trying to act as a human shield for both the president and the first lady, Jackie cradled her husband's shattered head in her lap. She pressed down on the top with her white-gloved hands, she said later, "to keep the brains in."
Jackie's head was down, her face only inches from the president's. She was struck by the "pink-rose ridges" inside his broken skull, she later said, and the fact that despit