... His breathing is good and unassisted. His heart is good. He's unconscious and the doctors describe his condition as very critical. ...The next announcement is at 4:45 a.m. on the 5th:
The surgery will take another hour or perhaps two. But Senator Kennedy's life signs remain good — respiration, pulse, blood pressure. And that's all they say...At 7:20 a.m., the surgery is over and his condition is "extremely critical."
All but one fragment of the bullet have been removed from the head injury. There is still one bullet apparently somewhere in the back of his neck, although this has not been regarded as a major problem....There is talk of the blood loss to the "midbrain" which controls "certain of the vital signs... although not directly the thinking processes." Everyone was talking about what would be left of him if he survived, so this reference to "the thinking processes" must have stirred some hopes. We were told "the next 12 to 36 hours will be a very critical period."
There's nothing more until a "very short bulletin" at 5:30 on the evening of June 5th. The doctors were "concerned over his continuing failure to show improvement."
The next we heard was the 1:59 announcement of his death, which ends: "He was 42 years old."
I was 17 when this happened, and of all the assassinations of the 1960s, this is the one that had the deepest effect on me. I wrote this a while ago:
When Bobby's coffin was on public view in St. Patrick's Cathedral, [my friends and I] got in my car and drove in to New York City (from Wayne, New Jersey) and waited in the long line to file past. I remember the feeling of being around the other mourners and how extremely kind I thought it was when office workers brought us cups of water from inside their building. In the end, we teenagers started worrying that our parents would get upset, wondering where we were, and we left the line we'd waited in for hours.When I was in New York this past year, I happened to walk by a rather ordinary high wall next to a sidewalk and recognized it as the wall over which the office workers handed those cups of water. It was something about their concern for us that made me think that our parents worrying was more important than getting to the coffin. But I have often regretted that we didn't stay there in that line. We'd come so far.
Now, I'm looking at some more of the articles in the NYT from 40 years ago. (My links will get you to PDFs of the articles, but you may have to pay to see them.)
Here is the article describing the shooting:
The Shooting: A Victory Celebration That Ended With Shots, Screams and Curses; SUSPECT IS SEIZED WITH GUN IN HAND Men Wrestle Him to Table as Kennedy, Bleeding, Lies in a Corridor
A thin, intense man stood on the platform in the glare of television lights. He had come to share victory with those who had helped him win it....
"Hysteria" in West Is Feared by ArabsIn his column, Tom Wicker quotes Gene McCarthy:
Amman, Jordan. Palestinians here voiced fears today that "a wave of anti-Arab hysteria"... might follow allegations that a Palestinian Arab had shot Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
"Jewish propaganda" was one Palestinian Arab's reaction to reports that Sirhan Bishara Sirhan had been charged in the case.
"It's outrageous!" declared Amman's semi-official newspaper, Ad Destour. "What Arab in his right mind would do a thing like this? The only people to benefit from such actions are the Jews."
Some Palestinians expressed the belief that Sirhan was a "hired killer" and part of a Zionist plot to discredit Arabs."
"It is not enough, in my judgment," he said, "to say that this was the act of one deranged man, if that is the case. The nation, I think, bears too great a burden of guilt, really for the kind of neglect that has allowed the disposition to grow here in one's own land, in part a reflection of violence which we had visited upon the rest of the world."Wicker also quotes Representative Gerald Ford:
"Surely there can be no further quibbling about the urgent need for tougher law enforcement legislation."Here is a piece on Sirhan Sirhan's father:
It remains to be seen whether those who agree with this will be willing to include some practical limitation on the purchase and possession o the kind of handgun with which Robert Kennedy was assassinated, or the cheap rifle that killed his brother.
"This news made me sick when I heard it. If my son has done this dirty thing, then let them hang him."...The family was Greek Orthodox, and Sirhan, as a child, had studied at a school run by the Lutheran Church of the Savior.
"I'm deeply sorry for both of them, for my son and for Mr. Kennedy. I admire the Kennedy family very much. I prayed that Robert Kennedy would be elected President so he could do many of the good things for the world that his brother did."...
"Please tell the Kennedy family that I am very, very sorry... I don't know how he could have done such a thing," he said. "Ours is a deeply religious family... We hate this sort of thing, this violence and death. It is not our way."
Here's a piece called "Tragedy Stalks Kennedy Family In a Long Series of Misfortunes."
Experts were consulted to explain it:
Experts Link Attack on Kennedy To a Strain of Violence in U.S.Abrahamsen asserted that our affluence makes us think "we can have what we want," and we become frustrated and violent when we don't get it. He calls "frustration" the "wet nurse of violence" and says that public figures symbolize America, and "authority figures... have to be killed by those who feel frustrated by authority." The article also quotes a psychiatry professor, Dr. John P. Spiegel, who said: "The population as a whole is conditioned to expect violence... Behind this is America's gun fetish and the notion that a gun can be used to solve conflict. There is an emotional addiction, as strong as any any other addiction, such as drugs, to guns."
A strain of violence in the American psychological make-up, going back even earlier than frontier days, was suggested yesterday by some experts as the cause of increased crime, rioting in the streets and acts of individual violence such as the shooting of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Dr. David Abrahamsen, a psychiatrist..., said here that Americans condone violence.
"We love it," he said. "We love to fight. The frontier days made the gun manly.
"We feel we can have anything we want. We have a unique society — so affluent... In France, they can riot for three weeks and only two people are killed. Can you imagine how many would have been killed here?..."