On the morning of September 5, 1901, a slim man arrived at the gates of the Pan-American exposition. He blended in with the crowd nicely. No one would suspect that he was buying his ticket for any other purpose other than to enjoy what thousands were calling the Grandest of all the World's Fairs.
After passing through the gates, the man began a deliberate survey of the Exposition grounds paying close attention to certain details such as the layout of the walkways, the throngs of people, and the security guards. Suddenly he saw his objective. An enormous crowd had gathered to hear a speech delivered by President William McKinley -- perhaps some would actually get the opportunity to greet him personally and shake his hand.
With a guarded determination, the man approached the huge throng of people waiting to catch a look at the President. After some time, the man found himself close enough to be able to hear McKinley's speech. He saw the President rise and mount to the stand. He forced his way down to the front row to stand with the cheering people, but he stood mute.
He listened to the President's speech with a deaf ear. He was determined to get closer to the President but as he made his attempt, a guard appeared in front of him blocking his chance. The man decided to wait for a better opportunity.
After the President's address, the man was among the hundreds of people who attempted to crowd up to the President's carriage, but he was forced back. He saw the President drive away and cursed his misfortune.
The next day, the man returned to the Pan-American Exposition and waited for President McKinley to return. In the early afternoon, the President was to greet people in the Temple of Music and the man was one of the first to enter. He got as close to the stage as possible and was there when the President entered the Temple through a side door. The man was one of the first to hurry forward when the President took his position and prepared to shake hands with the people.
One by one the President took their hands, and with a smile on his face, gave a sharp downward jerk to each person's hand as he greeted them. No one paid any attention to the man as he stood in the line that slowly approached the President. Perhaps it was a bit odd that his hand was wrapped in a handkerchief and held close to his chest, but maybe he was nursing an injury and was embarrassed by his wound. Best to keep it covered up.
Finally, the man reached the President. He did not look into McKinley's face. As the smiling President reached out to take the man's right hand, he extended his left hand, pressed it against the President's chest and fired the gun he was concealing under the handkerchief. He fired twice, and would have fired again if not for the fact that he was tackled and drove to the ground.
Utter pandemonium rose up from the crowd in the Temple of Music. President McKinley, while gripping his chest, fell back into the arms of one of the security guards. A large pool of blood was forming on his white shirt. "Am I shot?" he exclaimed. After unbuttoning his vest and examining the President, the guard replied, "I'm afraid that you are, Mr. President."
It all happened in an instant. Almost before the noise of the second shot sounded, the assassin was tackled by secret service men and a squad of Exposition police seized the man and tore the weapon out of his hand. Soldiers of the U.S. artillery who were present at the reception set upon the assassin and began to brutally beat him. A soft yet determined voice spoke through the chaos, "Go easy on him boys." The words came from McKinley who was slumped on the floor in terrible pain. The President reached up for Pan-American President Milburn and said, "My wife, be careful about her. Don't let her know."
As word of the assassination attempt began to filter out of the Temple of Music, the thousands who were in attendance that day began what could only be described as a riot. People tried to shove their way into the Temple to see if what they were hearing was true, while others began an immediate cry for the death of the assassin at their hands. As the scene got more and more out of control, the military was called upon to try and restore some order while the Pan-American Exposition police attempted to get the assassin off the grounds.
The prostrate body of the assassin lay on the floor near where McKinley was dying. The man had received a terrific beating from the police, soldiers, and detectives. The President took a painful glance over at the scene. He raised he right hand, red with his own blood, and placed it on the hand of his secretary. "Let no one hurt him," he gasped, and sank back into a chair. The guards carried the assassin out of his sight.
At police headquarters, the assassin was interrogated by the District Attorney. "What is your name?" he asked bluntly.
"Leon Czolgosz." came the weak reply.
"Did you mean to kill the President?" asked the D.A.
"What was the motive that induced you to commit this crime?"
"I am a disciple of Emma Goldman. I killed the President because I done my duty. I did not feel that one man should have all this power while others have none."
With these words, Czolgosz was led away to a cell to await his trial. Meanwhile, the City of Buffalo was anxiously awaiting the news on whether or not President McKinley would survive the assassin's deadly attack.