By JEROD CLAPP
While waiting for him to arrive in Austin, Texas, Jerry Blaine got word that the man he’d been assigned to protect was killed in Dallas.
Blaine — a former Secret Service agent who was on protection detail for three presidents, including John F. Kennedy — talked to students at Charlestown High School about his time on the service and the repercussions Kennedy’s death had on the United States.
Bill Halter attended the talk and said the day Kennedy was shot sticks out in his memory, even though it seemed like forever ago to the students in the crowd.
“It’s ancient history to them, but I can vividly remember being in class and a girl burst into class telling us the president had been shot,” Halter said. “It shocked us all.”
Blaine talked to students about his experience as written in his book, “The Kennedy Detail.”
But as conspiracy theories about the assassination still circulate 50 years later, Blaine said he and his fellow agents discount the notion of a second shooter from a grassy knoll that day.
“This story needs to be told and the only answers [about that day] that are reliable are from the agents who were there,” Blaine said. “We wrote the book to make sure the conspiracy theorists didn’t kidnap history.”
He said Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, acted alone in firing all three shots by himself. But he said in a broader perspective, tragedies like that are likely to happen again and have become more frequent, partly because of larger population in the United States.
Dr. Tim McDonald, an Advanced Placement government teacher at New Washington High School, said he helped set up Blaine’s visit to schools across the district. He said with today’s generation of students so far removed from the events, he wanted to make sure they understood what the assassination meant for America.
“I think it’s a vital part of history,” McDonald said. “It’s at least close enough in recent history with the Kennedy assassination, so to have them talk to someone who was there with Kennedy, it brings the presidency down to their level.”
Blaine said the country was beginning to see a lot of change during Kennedy’s presidency, including key moments of the civil rights movement. Though dissension began to take root after Kennedy’s death, Blaine said he hopes he can reach students and assure them that in spite of conspiracy theories and dangers, they can trust lawmakers and others.
“There were a number of things that happened that just added divisiveness in the country,” Blaine said. “I like to talk to young people who don’t know, who may have heard it from their parents, so that they might trust the government.”
ON THE WEB
• For more information about Jerry Blaine and his book, visit kennedydetail.com