The bangs sounded small, almost like firecrackers, President Ronald Reagan's assistant later recalled.
There were six of them in less than two seconds, shattering the applause of the gathered crowd.
It was the afternoon of March 30, 1981. A Monday.
President Reagan had just delivered a speech to a building trades conference in the ballroom at the Washington Hilton, before being ushered out a secure passageway by his Secret Service detail. They made their way past the roped-off throng of media and public towards the presidential motorcade when the gunshots began.
Watch: the moment the shots were fired (Warning: distressing footage.)
The White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were wounded.
The final round ricocheted off the presidential limousine and struck President Reagan in the armpit. The bullet pierced between his ribs and into his lung, stopping just 25 mm from his heart.
As the President was evacuated to hospital (where trauma surgeons saved his life), citizens and police pinned the shooter to the ground.
The man writhing beneath them, bloodied in the struggle, was 25-year-old John Hinckley Jnr.
In his pockets were photographs of the actor Jodie Foster; the then breakthrough teen star of Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning film, Taxi Driver.
Later, in Hinckley's hotel room, police discovered a letter.
"Dear Jodie," it began.
A dangerous obsession.
Jodie Foster received a lot of correspondence from fans. As many as 3000 letters a month, her mother once said.
But those from John Hinckley were different.
Some were left at the door of her dormitory at Yale University. Others, in her mailbox.