[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."]
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?
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with