Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

Susan Boiko MD

A Fragment of the Past As a fifth grader on a class trip touring Washington DC in 1962, I never forgot our visit to the Walter Reed Medical Center Museum. The exhibits, which bored my classmates, were so fascinating to me I vowed to become a medical doctor on the spot. A few years ago I was again in Washington. After almost 50 years I wanted to see the Reed Museum. It had long ago moved off the Washington Mall to a remote location requiring trains, buses and a long walk through the Reed Medical Center campus to the Museum. There I came across a modest display, from a distance indistinguishable from the other Civil War medical artifacts. It was so poignant, so heartbreaking I burst into tears. Inside a glass encased pillar were fragment of President Lincoln’s skull. Breadcrumb- like bits of yellowed bone in two silver dollar sized glass dishes along with the bullet that killed Lincoln were displayed without fanfare. There in front of me was the almost 150 year old charcoal-colored ovoid bullet which created “the shot heard round the world.” I wept for the man who would secretly send money to impoverished strangers, for the little boy doing his lessons in charcoal on a shovel, for the teenager who would walk miles to borrow a precious book, for the father who lost a son, for the brilliant leader who had just led America out of devastating war. I wept because I knew medically that there was nothing anyone could do to save his life. It was as if I had heard the news for the first time. Susan Boiko MD