Source: Morning Oregonian
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Saw the Assassination”
City of publication: Portland, Oregon
Date of publication: 24 September 1901
Volume number: 41
Issue number: 12725
|“Saw the Assassination.” Morning Oregonian 24 Sept. 1901 v41n12725: p. 10.|
|A. H. Willett; McKinley assassination (eyewitnesses); McKinley assassination (eyewitness accounts: A. H. Willett); McKinley assassination (public response: Buffalo, NY); William McKinley (death: public response: Philadelphia, PA); McKinley assassination (government response); anarchism (laws against).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley; A. H. Willett.|
Saw the Assassination [excerpt]
A. H. Willett, of Portland, Eye-Witness of Shooting.
A. H. Willett, the well-known mining
man of this city, whose home is in Irvington, was an eyewitness of the assassination
of President McKinley. Mr. Willett returned to Portland yesterday, and to an
Oregonian reporter he told the story of the crime which has shocked the world,
from the standpoint of one who actually witnessed it.
“I was standing about 30 feet from the President when he was shot,” said Mr. Willett. “I was not in the line that was slowly marching past him and shaking hands, but was standing off observing him, as one would naturally look at the President of the United States at close range when opportunity offered.
“I saw a young and very ordinary-looking man with his right hand apparently wrapped in a bandage, walk along in the line, and reach out his left hand to shape [sic] hands with the President. Suddenly two sharp reports from a pistol rang out, and I saw the President reel, but not fall. Then, in a space of time much shorter than it takes me to tell it, I saw that the bandage on the man’s hand was afire. I saw a colored man who was following him in line throw his arm around the assassin’s neck, and bend him backward until I thought he would choke him to death. Instantly I saw another man, who had been standing near the President, rush forward and strike the assassin a blow in the face that knocked him down, carrying the negro down with him. I found out afterward that this was a secret service man.
“I distinctly heard President McKinley say when he was shot, ‘How could you?’ The President was assisted to a chair, and the ambulance was summoned, which took him away.
“In the meantime there was great excitement amounting to a panic in the building. For a moment the people did not realize that the President had been shot, but when a sense of the awful deed came over them their fury knew no bounds. If Czolgosz had not been hurried out of the building before the crowd fully awakened to the awfulness of his crime, he would have been torn to pieces.
“The sight of that shooting, the scene which followed, and the awful excitement of that night will be engraved on my memory to the last day of my life. I see now as vividly as I did when I actually witnessed it, and I cannot yet shake off the feeling that overcame me then. The scene in Buffalo that night, while the people eag[e]rly waited for each word of news from the President’s bedside, beggars description. Coupled with sorrow for the deed, and sympathy for the President and his invalid wife, there was a feeling of vindictiveness that was awful. It was well for Czolgosz that he was protected that night. One incident that I particularly remember, wa[s] where a man declared on the street that President McKinley had gotten what he deserved. A Catholic priest, who stood near, rushed up to the man, and hit him a stunning blow in the face that knocked him 10 feet. Other incidents of the same nature occurred during the night.
“I was in Philadelphia when the President died. Great crowds stood in front of the newspaper offices, awaiting the end, and when it came, the crowd received the news in sorrowful silence. Then some one in the crowd started to sing, ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee,’ and in a moment the words of the hymn were taken up by the vast multitude and sung with a feeling that I shall never forget. When the singing ceased a minister offered prayer. I read in the papers that the crowds around the bulletin boards in Chicago also sang that grand old hymn.
“The feeling in the East over the President’s assassination is very intense, and it is evident to my mind that vigorous measures will be taken everywhere by municipal authorities to stamp out anarchy without waiting for action by Congress. It will soon be so that a man will not dare avow himself a ‘red.’”