Few were closer to Jacqueline Kennedy than her Secret Service Agent Clint Hill. For four years, in the White House and later in New York City, the straight-laced agent from Washburn, North Dakota, was her security detail – and her confidant. Hill accompanied President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady to Texas in November 1963. After the shots were fired in Dallas, Hill leaped onto the back of their limo, trying to protect them both.
Today, 50 years later, everyone has seen the images of a blood-splattered pink suit, a bright blur as the car sped off. But Hill, now 81, retains them as personal memories. “It’s emotional. I still see what I saw in that car, the President lying on Mrs. Kennedy’s lap,” Hill tells Elizabeth McNeil in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. After the assassination, he says, he and Mrs. Kennedy “never discussed it.” In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, Five Days in November (written with Lisa McCubbin), Hill offers a heartbeat-close view of the assassination and of the days following, when a devastated 34-year-old widow and mother of two small children led her nation in mourning the fallen President with dignity and majesty.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 23, after Jackie Kennedy returned to the White House with her husband’s body, she retreated to her private quarters and wept. “Why did someone have to kill my husband?” she asked Providencia F. Paredes, her personal assistant, who stood at her side by her pale blue bed. Paredes had last seen her just before the trip; together they had selected the pink suit she wore in Dallas. Then Jackie added, “I thought they might kill me, too.”
But the First Lady tucked away her fears when Caroline and John came to greet her in the morning. “She didn’t want to cry in front of her children,” says Paredes, 89. Jackie shielded them from her grief and insisted they maintain a routine, taking them to Hyannis Port for Thanksgiving and Palm Beach for Christmas, as they had done with their father. “She said, ‘I want to do what the President wanted me to,’” says Paredes, who had worked for the family from 1959, traveled with Jackie on every official trip except for Dallas and later went on to work for Robert Kennedy. “She wanted to do things as if nothing had changed.”
Of course, everything had. The country lost its leader; Jackie lost the love of her life. “They were great together,” Paredes tells PEOPLE. “Very funny, talked about many things. He always wanted to be sure she was happy.” Even in grief, Jackie’s first thought was of her husband’s legacy. With a firm hand she planned a funeral modeled after Lincoln’s and soon summoned LIFE writer Theodore White to Hyannis Port. In a four-hour conversation, she put forth the narrative of JFK as a doting father, a man who loved history and heroes. At night, she said, they would play the finale of the musical Camelot, in which the king asks a boy to keep his story alive for the next generation. “Jackie understood that much of politics is theater,” says Helen O’Donnell, daughter of one of JFK’s closest advisers. That meant keeping her tears hidden. They had an understanding, she says, “that you can fall apart in private, but when the gate opens, it’s got to be some sort of Camelot.”
After that, she tried her best to stay out of public view. Soon after they moved to Georgetown, a photographer spotted John at the playground. Secret Service agent Tom Wells recalls John asking the photographer, “Why do you want my picture? My daddy is dead.” Soon the gawkers proved too much and Jackie moved to New York City, where she found a sprawling Fifth Avenue apartment and the privacy she craved. There, she insisted they lead a normal life, even if it meant John throwing water balloons out the window. When Caroline graduated from Concord Academy, Jackie said to Paredes, that the President “would have been so proud. “ He missed so much; Caroline’s wedding, John founding a magazine about politics, three grandchildren whom “she adored.”
In 1968 she created new life by marrying Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The memory of John F. Kennedy and how he had died in her arms never left her. Says Paredes: “Even as an Onassis, she never forgot her husband.”
**Also in this week's People:**
TOM CRUISE: FATHER UNDER FIRE – “HE CAN’T BACK DOWN NOW”
Questioned about his relationship with daughter Suri, Tom Cruise’s private life since his divorce is now public in a legal battle. In an L.A. law office on Sept. 9, Cruise answered tough questions about his relationship with Suri. Admitting that miles and months had separated him from his child with ex-wife Katie Holmes, 34, the star defended himself as a working dad juggling an intense schedule and all too often making do with long-distance phone calls to his kid. Last week portions of his deposition went public in a court filing – putting his life since his divorce on vivid display. Sources say the star has no intention of backing off a $50 million libel lawsuit against Bauer Publishing over an In Touch magazine cover stating Suri has been “abandoned by daddy” in the wake of his 2012 split from Holmes.
In the wide-ranging, often heated deposition, Cruise, 51, with his longtime attorney Bert Fields by his side, clashed with Bauer lawyer Elizabeth McNamara about his role as a father to Suri, his Scientology faith, his career choices, and whether on-set life compares with military combat. McNamara grilled Cruise about how he could maintain a close relationship with Suri despite months apart from her. Cruise admitted that he didn’t see Suri in person for more than 100 days after Aug. 4, 2012, when they wrapped a week-long vacation at Disney World and Cruise headed to London to film a movie. Despite the exes’ commitment to work together amicably as parents, Cruise admitted to challenges: visitation dates with Suri that he and Holmes, who has primary custody, couldn’t make work. “When a divorce occurs, things change,” he said. “And it’s more complicated, as everyone knows…you have to ask for permission and organize schedules to make things happen. It’s not an ideal situation.” A source who worked with Cruise told PEOPLE, “He adores his children,” which is why he’s determined to see the lawsuit through. Says the source: “He can’t back down now.”
MIRANDA LAMBERT’S BRAND NEW BODY: ONE LAST “BEER AND CHEETOS HURRAH”
After four months of hard work and healthy eating, country star Miranda Lambert drops a dress size and shows off her fabulous figure. When Lambert hit the red carpet at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville on Nov. 6, her svelte new figure set the crowd abuzz. “I didn’t know until tonight that people were noticing,” she told PEOPLE of her slimmed-down look. “But you want people to notice when you’ve worked hard and feel good. That’s part of the reward. It’s a great motivator.” Equally motivating were the prospects of promoting a new album in the spring and celebrating her 30th birthday on Nov. 10. “I spent my 20s on a roller coaster – my yo-yo weight, working all the time and partying,” the singer explains. “I just wanted to get healthier and go into my 30s in the best shape I could be in. So, after one last “beer and Cheetos” hurrah on July 4, “I said to myself, ‘It’s time.’” Lambert took a personal trainer on tour. She also changed her diet, helping her lose a dress size. Lambert adds that husband, Blake Shelton, 37, has taken notice. “He brags on me,” she says. “That makes me feel great.” After scooping up the CMA female vocalist award for the fourth time in a row, she was considering a fitting reward: “I might have some Cheetos tonight, just to celebrate.”
JENNIFER ANISTON & JUSTIN THEROUX: NEW HAIR, NEW PLANS – “SHE NEEDED TO FOCUS ON WORK”
Jennifer Aniston, who just revealed a shorter haircut, is prepping for her role in Horrible Bosses 2 in Los Angeles, while fiancé Justin Theroux is busy working in New York City. According to a source close to the couple, work engagements have been keeping them apart, and given their schedules for the next few months, it might get even more challenging. Theroux, 42, spent the last few weeks working in New York, where he will remain rooted next year to shoot his new HBO drama series The Leftovers. Meanwhile, Aniston, 44 – who just chopped her famous locks into a low-maintenance bob and got a new piercing – is busy filming Bosses in L.A. So what does the time apart mean for their highly anticipated nuptials? The couple remains engaged, and in fact, Aniston was involved in a swirl of planning with girlfriends in September. But since then, the actress seems to have shifted her priorities. “Jen said she needed to focus on work.” Aniston has also seemingly pulled back on her plans for a family. “There was a lot of baby talk in the past, but she is not focused on it,” the source adds. “She’s aware her age makes it more difficult. Her attitude is, ‘If it happens, great, but if it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be.’”
RACHEL McADAMS: ON PADDLEBOARD YOGA – “THERE ARE ELABORATE POSES”
Rachel McAdams embraces love and time travel in the romantic comedy About Time. The actress reveals to PEOPLE the last time she said “sorry,” the last time she cried, and the last time she cringed. Last time I said “sorry”: “My sister [Kayleen] and I had a little spat over the heat in the house. I like things really hot, and she likes them cold, so I tried to turn the thermostat up while she was out walking the dog.” Last time I cried: “On the airplane watching Heaven Can Wait. It wasn’t even a particularly sad movie, it was something about the song at the end. And the altitude always gets you. I was just bawling.” Last time I cringed: “Doing stand-up paddleboard yoga with some friends. There are elaborate poses, and we hadn’t gotten everything waxed, and we had this handsome male instructor. I bought the full-length board shorts for the next time!”