March 30, 1981

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I still remember the day rather well, 36 years to the day later.

It was an uneventful Monday at Anona Elementary in Largo, Florida, a school I lived walking distance from. Occasionally, if my parents were free, they’d pick me up at school, so in the school parking lot sat the white Camaro my mother drove at the time. Q-105, the big Top 40 station in Tampa Bay at the time, interrupted in mid-song (if I remember correctly) to relay the news: President Reagan had just been shot at by an assassin.

I didn’t know too much about assassinations at the time, and didn’t know how the recent history of that era had been littered with too many of those and other sudden deaths. When we got home, a lot of stations were carrying the latest news bulletins, with a few stations carrying this new thing called CNN. The media would then later discover that the President had not gotten away unscathed, he had been hit in the chest with one of the bullets.

Over on ABC, anchor Frank Reynolds was particularly frantic, perhaps unlike any other news anchor has been seen before or since with a breaking news story, imploring his staff to get the portions of the story coming in to be as accurate as possible. As is seen today, and has been seen throughout the modern history of the media, early reports here and there were incorrect.

I wondered if the NCAA basketball title game between Indiana and North Carolina would go on as scheduled. When it was determined that the President would survive the attack, the game did indeed go on as scheduled, with the Hoosiers claiming another NCAA crown in Philadelphia as they had five years ago.

All and all, it was one of those days to remember for the wrong reasons. Thankfully, it was not a total tragedy for the country.

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