June 6th, 2008
09:40 PM ET

RFK...first hand experience

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/06/art.vert.rfk.jpg width=292 height=320 caption="Robert F. Kennedy greets students during a presidential campaign stop in La Grande, Ore., May 22, 1968."]

Maureen Miller
AC 360° Writer

Editor's note: Watch a special CNN hour examining the historical and cultural parallels between RFK's legacy and what's happening today in "Something's Happening Here: 1968 – 2008": Saturday, June 7 at 2p, 11p, 2a, 5a ET; and Sunday, June 8 at 5p, 1a, 4a ET.

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of Sen. Robert F. Kenney’s murder. In a split second, our nation was shattered again. Yet another killing shocked millions, just months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rosey Grier is former bodyguard to Robert F. Kennedy and a former professional football player. He wrested the gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, to the ground after the deadly shots were fired.

40 years later, he’s sharing with CNN what happened the night Kennedy was gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

He tells us, “I came around a refrigerator area and I saw this man was with a gun in his hand, and people were trying to get a hold of him so I went for his leg and pulled him up on this table, and George Plimpton (Kennedy friend/ writer) had the gun in hand and I locked his legs and George Plimpton couldn’t get the gun out of Sirhan’s hand and other people were around his upper body and some of them, as the other people started to catch up, they went after Sirhan and so I put my hand over George Plimpton's hand and I wrenched the gun out of Sirhan’s hand and put it in my pocket - and now I'm looking around and I knew people were down on the floor and I realized that one of them was Bobby.”

At that moment, Grier didn’t realize how serious Kennedy’s injuries were. Soon he would. As he recalls: “I went to the hospital, went up to the room where Ethel was lying on the bed beside Bobby and... she said, 'hello' and I nodded at her and then I went downstairs and later on I got the word that Bobby was really hurt, really bad. And I just felt so badly, and after a while Ethel and Jackie came over and they hugged me and said, 'my hero.'  In my heart, I said there are no heroes, a man is down."

Grier, an African-American, is intensely passionate about what RFK’s death did to the country and the civil rights movement.

He says, “We were just in mourning in a sense because all of our hopes and dreams were going down because Bobby had been shot and killed. It just seemed such a terrible thing to happen, a man dreamed of leading our country, our hopes in this man as with Dr. Martin Luther King, and another man was lost in the war of righteousness for peace, for hope and he was gone just like that.”

Grier says Kennedy’s and King’s murders contain a message for all Americans: “You realize that when we see neighbors or friends talking about other people that you don’t say anything so it was all our fault that we lost these men in the battlefield at home because we were silent. We didn’t cry out to say that’s not right what you are saying, to put other people down because of their religion, their race, but to stand up for their right to speak, their right to live in peace.”

Do you agree? What are your memories of RFK’s assassination and how would you describe his legacy?

Filed under: Maureen Miller • Raw Politics • RFK
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. David

    Historically if you do the research the Kennedy's were just a bunch of hot air- starting with the bay of pigs- it was a disaster

    June 8, 2008 at 10:17 pm |
  2. Lillian Gonzalez

    It was my first year in Nursing School. I was very upset after I heard that Bobby Kennedy was killed. I just remembered that five years earlier the President JFK, his brother, was killed in Texas. At that time, I was in seventh grade. The school was closed immediately. I remember crying all the way back home. I was very sad. I will never forget those two days in the history of the Kennedys. as long as I live.

    June 8, 2008 at 9:30 pm |
  3. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    I hope the 40th is truly a time for change. It was remarkable how the sewer kept filling in your political arena [yes and OURS[!!] as well] and you have come to this point in time. If anything, voter apathy and the racial divide have to be addressed. The issue of health care for ALL Americans has to finally be realized and not the rich/ poor division which seems to be entrenched by the MOHs/ doctor entitlement bunker mentality!! If elected, the view should be kept that a lot of the incumbents are part of the disease afflicting your country and not the possible cure!

    June 8, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  4. Kathy, Andover

    I was just a little girl in 1968. I was in 2nd grade, & I remember our teacher held a primary. I adored Bobby Kennedy and voted for him. Strangely enough, I don't remember him being shot & killed. Several years ago, I came across the book, "Make Gentle the Life of This World" edited by Maxwell Taylor Kennedy. It is filled with wonderful words of wisdom - some are quotes from Bobby Kennedy & others are quotes Bobby Kennedy collected. I bought one book for myself and one for my son. I absolutely LOVE this book - it captures Bobby Kennedy's essence.

    June 8, 2008 at 12:20 am |
  5. AJ

    Great story. I grew up in the Midwest, and people there still remember how he went through small town Nebraska during his campaign.

    June 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Missy

    I remember so well getting on the school bus in the morning, and he was still alive. We were all talking about it, how affected we were.

    My father had taken us all in to his Senate office in 1967 to discuss a topic with him. To this day, I am still in awe of his presence and his caring way and mannerisms. He looked directly into my father's eyes as my father was talking with him, listening intently. He was so interested in shaking all our hands and hearing what we had to say.

    He was a man who truly cared.

    June 7, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  7. seah Ohio

    Obama is no Kennedy, He is the furthest from being like them.

    The Kennedys were all experienced in Politics, they learn so much from their father, they travel with him and assisted him in foreign relations. So they received a first hand education.

    They had experience on the job, They showed up and did the work, they worked for the people and the country. They did not vote present, and just take a free ride.

    So Just because Teddy kennedy endorsed him, Does not mean he is the right person to Run this country.

    God Bless the kennedys

    Obama is a mind manipulating, motivational speech. Who actually is Just words, for he has nothing at all to warrant he is done anything good for the people or the country.

    After the Canadian incident, People should be running scared not drinking the koolaide, and being sucked into the vaccum.

    June 7, 2008 at 12:29 pm |
  8. Tita

    I was living in L.A., going to high school, and had a great interest in the RFK campaign. I went to his campaign office in my suburb, got a bumper sticker (I didn't drive yet), and was so excited to hear the news that he'd won.

    STOP. I can still remember the pain and sadness I felt when I woke up to hear he'd been shot. I still have that bumper sticker, and I shake my head and wonder what could have been.....what could have been......

    Kind Regards,

    June 7, 2008 at 12:17 pm |
  9. samatha

    America will never know it's full potential. We have lost some great leaders in the past from The Kennedy's to King and all between. We have now embark on this new journey with Obama and......yes with Hillary too. Good luck America!

    June 7, 2008 at 3:00 am |
  10. jt

    For sure Obama is no Bobby Kennedy.

    Bobby worked on civil rights, went against corruption and a very compassionate man to all.

    June 7, 2008 at 1:14 am |
  11. Eugene Hernandez

    I was in Vietnam in 1968 and I remember hearing the news that Bobby Kennedy had been killed in Los Angeles, my first thought was just another death. Death was all around and the suddenous of death
    had already been seered in my brain. It wasn't until the early 70's that
    I learned the significance of Bobby's death. In War, if Gen. Kennedy,
    Gen. King, Gen. Malcom X had been killed so close together, we would have called it an assassination.

    June 7, 2008 at 1:01 am |
  12. Kent Fitzsimmons,Illinois

    I was three years old. I don't remember it. But, The whole thing makes me very sad. I watch RFK video clips and can see how much America wanted and needed him, and then he was taken away.

    It is very powerful that the Kennedy's come out and back Obama..........very compelling. I am overwhelmed by the spirit of Barack Obama and what he could do. We need to rise up and support him...........or we can blame ourselves for the mess McCain will continue......................

    June 7, 2008 at 12:09 am |
  13. Annie Kate

    RFK has endured as a hero to me for his compassion, his zeal for what was right for all people and his commitment to making things better. I was a young teen when he ran for President and worked in his campaign on a local level where I lived at the time. Bobby was our dream – a way out of war, a way to change the country in a positive way, a President who truly cared about the people and not one that just cared about politics. I saw the announcement on the television that he had been shot. He was still alive when I went to bed – the next morning I found out that he had died. It was like a kick in the gut – a flame went out and all that was left for quite a while was "if only".

    I wonder now if Bobby would have won the Presidency that year – it wasn't a sure thing by a long shot. I wonder too that if he had would Vietnam have ended quicker, would the country have come back together, would the race riots and the war protests have ended sooner. That day stands out in my memories far more than the assassination of JFK. Bobby had the potential for greatness and it was ripped away in a second – its tragic that a man with a gun could stop so much promise.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 7, 2008 at 12:04 am |
  14. Wayne Lee Schumacher

    Compromise is the first thing endured in our democracy. I felt that
    Bobby was out of step with the peace movement and when he said
    he changed his hawkish stance which included an apology, his elec-
    ability was enough to join his campaign over McCarthy's which was
    more genuine.

    June 6, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  15. Vig

    Hillary Clinton grew up during one of the most transformative periods in our history. She is the product of a generation of revolution and change – the 1960's. There was social upheaval and historical events, that affected us all deeply. SHe carries history in her veins.

    June 6, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  16. Michele, Oregon

    Bogged at length on another site earlier about the show. Felt a deep sadness remembering...... Great job on an excellent special and panel of commentators.

    I know an African American woman now living in Las Vegas, who was a witness as she was working in the kitchen. She actually put a rosary in Bobby Kennedy's hand after he was shot. Dorothy if you are reading this, God bless you!

    June 6, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  17. Cindy

    I watched the special tonight when it aired at 8. It was pretty good. This was way before my time so I got to see who Bobby was and what this was actually all about.

    Thanks Rosey for sharing your story with us.


    June 6, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  18. Jackie La Habra Ca

    40th anniversary ? I remember that time very well. I was in 8th grade and our school made us watch the News all day. They kept telling us we were the first generation to have the privilege of this media experience. I still don't like that, "Privilege".

    It was a man murdered to me. And I was a child. And that day was and still is a nightmare to me and my generation.

    June 6, 2008 at 11:15 pm |