He heard the news while boarding the plane. Martin Luther King had just been shot.
It was April 4th, 1968.
Bobby Kennedy was campaigning for his party's presidential ticket. He was on his way to Indianapolis to finish off another day on the campaign trail.
When the plane landed, the death of Dr. King was confirmed.
As a result, city officials and members of his team strongly advised Kennedy against appearing in front of a crowd. The chief of police warned that if a riot broke out, they wouldn't be able to provide adequate protection.
Kennedy went ahead anyway. He canceled the stop at his headquarters to go directly to the rally site. It was in the heart of the African-American ghetto, and the news was not yet public.
Both his press secretary and his speechwriter drafted some notes for him to use, but he had written down his own words on the plane ride there, and those were the words he spoke.
He made the disheartening announcement standing on a flatbed truck.
The crowd erupted into screams of horror, disbelief, and hopelessness.
When they stopped, he spoke of what was likely to come: violence and bloodshed, a greater divide between the races, and he contrasted that with Dr. King's message.
He acknowledged the right of the African-American community to feel bitter and broken, and for the first time, he spoke publicly of his own brother's assassination almost five years earlier.
As he walked away, he left the crowd with a choice of how to proceed.
That night, riots erupted in 100-plus cities. Indianapolis wasn't one of them.