Tag Archives: Jfk

And the Answer Is

I posted my four truths and a lie yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect. Was my lie an obvious one?

Let me say this about that. You,  Elin Stebbins Waldal, are the only one who guessed right!

Answer time

As promised, here are the answers. And this is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

 1. Bette Midler once asked to take a picture with me.

TRUE. A dear friend from high school wrote two of Bette’s award-winning shows. He invited me and a few other high school friends to come see her in The Showgirl Must Go On at Caesars Palace in Vegas in 2008. Not only did she give a terrific show, she met us afterwards for chit chat and refreshments. She was very friendly and gracious. At one point she turned our little group of friends and said, “Come on, let’s take some pictures.” We hesitated for a moment, but she insisted.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia


2. Waiting in line to board a flight, I realized Dick Cavett was right in front of me. I was too shy to say anything.

FALSE. Totally made this up. Never happened.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia

3. I told Gary Shteyngart I was writing a book and he wished me good luck.

TRUE. I met him at a Random House event last spring. He was on a panel talking about social media and authors. Afterwards he signed books. Of course I wanted to get his latest book, Little Failure, and as he autographed it I told him that the topic of my book also involved Russian immigrants. He was charming and friendly. “Good luck with your book,” he told me, and inscribed that on the page of his book.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia

4. Jane Fonda once asked me for directions at an airport.

TRUE. This was one of the most bizarre events of my entire life. It was during the Iranian oil embargo, maybe 1973? I was driving back to Washington, DC where I attended college. It was dark and I was still an hour from Washington with only a quarter tankful of gas. I looked for a gas station but I didn’t see one. In desperation, I took the Baltimore Washington Airport exit. What was i thinking? That there would be gas there? Anyway, it was almost deserted. Eerily so. I parked my car and started to walk into the terminal to ask for help. Jane Fonda and another person were standing there waiting for a cab. The normal cab line was empty. “Do you know where we can get a cab?” she asked me. I did a double take. Yes, it was her.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia

5. I waved to President Kennedy when he was on the campaign trail, and he looked straight at me and waved back.

TRUE. I was about seven years old and JFK was coming to my hometown for a campaign stop. My mother wanted to see him so she packed me into the car and we drove downtown to where the parade would be. Only thing was we didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to park  (no municipal garages back then). By the time we found a space on a side street and walked toward the parade, it was over. Gone. Dejected, we walked back to the car. All of a sudden the motorcade turned the corner and came down our street. No one was there but us. As the car passed we waved, and JFK smiled at us and waved back.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia



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The Day President Kennedy Died

funeral of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Fifty years ago today, life as we knew it changed with a bullet and a blood-spattered pink suit.

It was Friday afternoon in Miss Seiler’s fifth grade class. For the short time left in the day we were allowed to work on a project in small groups. There was a low hum of activity in the room as we chatted with each other, a bit of restlessness, as dismissal was just about an hour away.

Miss Seiler had sent one of the boys to the office to deliver an attendance slip. When he returned he mumbled something about someone being shot. The buzz in the room escalated audibly with nervous laughter. We thought it was a joke. Some of the boys pretended to point a gun and said bang bang, you’re dead, and we giggled.

The Long Ride in Silence

My parents and younger brother were waiting outside for me that day. We were leaving straight from school to travel across the state to my grandmother’s for a pre-Thanksgiving visit. As soon as I got in the car I knew something was terribly wrong.

They told me that President Kennedy had been shot and was dead. I remember that long, somber ride in the car, with spotty reception of AM radio as we crossed over the mountains. My parents struggled to answer my questions. “Why? Why would anyone want to do this?” I wailed.

We spent most of the weekend in front of my grandmother’s black and white TV. This was a new thing, this round-the-clock coverage that we are so used to today. Walter Cronkite, visibly shaken when he took off his glasses and announced JFK’s death, steered us through these first few days of confusion and sorrow.

Cronkite announcing the death of President Ken...

Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember the sadness of Jackie’s stricken face at the funeral, people lining the street and sobbing, John-John’s salute as his father’s casket passed by.

funeral of John F. Kennedy, Jr.There was another story being reported about John-John.. Someone had given him a toy flag to play with. “Can I have another one to give to my father?’ he was reported to have asked. That broke my 10 year-old heart.

I had felt an emotional connection to President Kennedy. Perhaps it was the romance of Camelot, perhaps his charisma, the allure of the Kennedy family. Maybe it was because several years earlier he had smiled at me.

He Smiled at Me

When JFK was running for President he made a campaign stop in my city, and my mother and I drove downtown to see. There were people lined up and down the city streets. The air was electric with excitement.

We got there too late, or we weren’t in the right place, and we missed it. Gloomily we walked back to the car. But then miraculously the motorcade appeared on the side street where we were parked. JFK’s car passed right by and he waved and smiled at us.

He was my President. From then on, I idolized him and his glamorous, soft-spoken wife and his adorable children.

The World Would Never Be the Same

In a way, the 1950s ended that day in 1963, I felt the change, the loss of innocence. The world no longer felt predictable and safe.

This feeling of despair would strike again, in April 1968 when Martin Luther King was killed, and again in June when Robert F. Kennedy was killed.

I remember the morning when I heard about RFK. My clock radio had clicked on at 7 a.m. with the shocking news that I could only barely comprehend, and, tears streaming down my face, I ran into my parents room to tell them.

They tried to soothe me, thinking I had had a nightmare about JFK, but of course the nightmare was that violence had claimed another life full of promise. The nation was again thrown into turmoil.


To commemorate this anniversary, my blogging friends at Midlife Boulevard are sharing their own experiences. Click on the links below to read their stories.


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