BOSTON - A week after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, his widow remembered how the president collapsed into her lap when the shots rang out. And she remembered how he looked.
"His last expression was so neat," Jacqueline Kennedy told journalist Theodore H. White in comments made in 1963 that were released for the first time yesterday.
"He had his hand out, I could see a piece of his skull coming off . . . and I can see this perfectly clean piece detaching itself from his head. . . . I kept bending over him saying: `Jack, Jack, can you hear me, I love you Jack.' I kept holding the top of his head down, trying to keep the brains in," she said on Nov. 29, 1963.
Mrs. Kennedy remarried in 1968 and became known as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Excerpts from the interview have appeared in Life magazine and White's 1978 memoir, "In Search of History." Now, the John F. Kennedy Library has released the full record of the interview, including White's handwritten notes and revisions in Mrs. Kennedy's handwriting.
White donated the papers to the library in 1969, saying they could not be released until one year after the former first lady's death. She died of cancer May 19, 1994, at age 64. White died in 1986.
In the interview, Mrs. Kennedy said after the president's death she wondered where she would live.
"I wanted my old house back. But then I thought - how can I go back there to that bedroom? I said to myself, `You must never forget Jack, but you mustn't be morbid.' "
The transcript also shows that her hopes a week after the assassination included privacy for herself and memorials for her husband.
"I'm not going to be the Widow Kennedy," Mrs. Kennedy told White. "When this is over, I'm going to crawl into the deepest retirement there is."
Perhaps most important, the papers reveal the extent to which she had a hand in shaping the extraordinary Kennedy legacy.
"She certainly wanted to take control of history," says presidential historian Stephen E. Ambrose, "and in many ways she managed to do so."
White wrote in his memoir that Mrs. Kennedy wanted him to "rescue Jack from all these `bitter people' who were going to write about him."
The interview was the first time "Camelot" was linked to the Kennedy administration in print. Mrs. Kennedy said her husband loved the musical "Camelot:" "The lines he loved to hear were: `Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.' "