Saw the President Shot
Eyewitnesses Describe the Circumstances in Detail.
The Story of Frank W. Lilley, Who Was among the First to Reach Mr.
McKinley’s Side—Remarkable Coolness of the Executive.
BUFFALO, Sept. 7.—One
of the men closest to President McKinley when he was shot was Frank
W. Lilley, of Clarence, Erie county, a traveling salesman. He stood
at his side almost before the shooting and helped to support him
as he was escorted to the chair in which he rested until the arrival
of the ambulance.
Mr. Lilley tells the story of the
occurrence graphically. “I saw the assailant as he was approaching
the President,” he said this morning, “but I took no notice of him
till the moment that the shooting occurred. My first impression
was that some fool had exploded a firecracker, and did not realize
what had occurred till after the second shot, when I saw a revolver
in the man’s hand. Then I had no thought for him, hardly. My attention
was riveted on the President, as was that of the great majority
around him. I saw his assailant knocked down, and remember distinctly
that he gave his captors an awful struggle, but I was listening
to the President rather than paying attention to anything else.
“I think it was Secretary Cortelyou
who asked him if he was shot, and I heard the President reply: ‘Yes;
yes.’ Then I saw him stretch his arm toward Cortelyou and heard
him say: ‘See that no exaggerated report reaches Mrs. McKinley.’
“When the President had been cared
for I turned to look at his assailant, and just then he was being
hustled away by his captors, who seemed determined on getting him
to a place of safety. The people were then just beginning to realize
what had happened, and they were disposed to lynch the prisoner.
I had something of that desire myself, and it was shared by everyone
in the Temple save those who had him in charge. It was their prompt
action that saved a lynching. That is certain.”
With regard to the shooting Mr. Lilley
said: “My particular recollection is that of hearing two shots in
rapid succession and seeing a smoking revolver in the assassin’s
hand. There was no time to see more and no time to do anything.
It was all so sudden and so surprising that preventive action was
impossible. I do not blame the police or the soldiery. I would decry
such functions now, but was then as eager for it as anyone. I wanted
to see the President and I wanted to shake hands with him. So did
everyone, save one. He was alone and in such a crowd I don’t see
how his attack could have been averted. It was well planned. It
was stealthy. It was sudden.”
Detective Sergeant Geary was standing
next to the President when the shots were fired. He caught the President
in his arms immediately afterward and led him to a seat, as Detective
Ireland, of the Secret Service force, who was standing on the other
side of President McKinley, jumped for the assassin.
According to Geary’s story, the President
was not aware at first that the bullets had entered his body. He
said as the detective caught him: “I wonder if I am shot!”
“I am afraid you are, sir,” said Geary.
The President threw open his vest.
There were two holes in his shirt, one over the abdomen and the
other a little above. Blood soaked the white linen.
“You are shot, sir,” said Detective
“Yes, I guess I am,” replied the President
very coolly as he sank into a chair.
George Foster, one of the Secret Service
men detailed to guard the President, said: “After we had Czolgosz
on the floor, I kneeling with one knee on each arm, he made a desperate
effort to shoot again. He struggled fiercely, raised one hand, and
tried to pull the trigger. President McKinley did not fall. He stood
on his feet for three minutes after being shot, and opened his vest
himself. It was after we were in the ambulance that he displayed
the greatest fortitude. We were on our way to the hospital. I had
one arm under him with his head resting on his arm. He felt his
breast and said quietly: ‘Foster, does not that feel like a bullet?’
I put my hand to his breast and felt something hard and oblong under
the skin. ‘Yes, it does, Mr. President,’ I replied. ‘Well, we have
got one of them, anyway,’ he said, and smiling faintly, he closed