On March 30, 1981, James Brady, press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, lay in a pool of blood, his brain swelling outside of his skull, precious life draining out of him. John Hinckley’s goal was to kill my father; he shot 3 other people out of the way. He hit Thomas Delahanty, a DC police office, Timothy McCarthy, a Secret Service agent, my father, and James Brady — the most seriously injured. Mr. Brady sustained a massive brain injury that left him paralyzed on one side and forever impaired. He was 40 years old.
In 2011, when I wrote a piece for Time about John Hinckley’s increasing unsupervised visits outside Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, I spoke with Sarah Brady. “There were other victims,” she said. “Our son Scott was 2 years old then. The first time I took him to the hospital, Jim wailed — that awful sound he’d started making.” By 2011, Mr. Brady was nearly blind, he had spinal stenosis, and he had started screaming in his sleep. Sarah wondered if he was having nightmares about that day.
When news of his passing came today, I thought about the courage of Jim and Sarah Brady, and I would ask everyone to think of it. They were a young family, and they had their life, their future shattered in a matter of seconds. They could have allowed the grief, the shock, the anger to hobble them. They could have retreated far from the eyes of the world — who would have blamed them? But instead they stood tall and determined in front of the country they love — a country that loves its guns — and demanded that America love guns a little less. In 1993 they succeeded; the Brady Bill was passed, requiring background checks for the purchase of guns.
A family whose life was forever changed 33 years ago has now been changed again. Sarah Brady will no longer go to her husband at night to quiet his screams; she’ll feel the silent fall of tears instead. She will reflect and remember the life she and Jim lived together, and hopefully she will find solace in knowing that their hearts were brave and true and they made a difference in the world.