Memories of JFK's Assassination
November 22, 1963
It was early that night and there was a farewell party in
Ankara for Marge Halfpenny, the first PC Secretary, who was returning to the
States. We were at her apartment in Kavaklidere and John Wintrol came
in, and asked "where's Dave Weinman! He whispered something to Dave and the
two spoke intensely for a moment, then Dave got everyone's attention and
announced "Kennedy has been shot"!! I couldn't process that, asking "you
mean Joseph Kennedy? No, came the answer. "Bobby (I persisted) !?
No...."the President" replied Dave.
Some of us went down the hill to the embassy where a sizable
crowd of Turks had gathered, all of us waiting for news of the President.
By then we had heard he had been killed, but came hoping against hope that
these were rumors, not the final word, or to find out how this could have
happened. Ankara was a small city then, 600,000 people. A Gazi Eğitiğim
Institusu student I knew from our in-country training a year earlier saw me
in the crowd and ran up asking me what had happened. How could this be?!
Surely I would be able to explain it for him. To his and my dismay, being
an American at that moment gave me no advantage, no special insight, and no
answers. We stood together in shock, disbelief and shared loss. - Mike
And Turkey II was just getting used to living in Turkey, having arrived two
months earlier. Our town Turks brought food to us and we had tea, as if a
member of our own family had died.
T-2 was scheduled for a six week training session
beginning in early June 1963 at Georgetown, and I was to serve as a Turkish
instructor under the legendary Hikmet Sebuktekin. A month earlier, as a
graduate student and a NATO Scholar, I was invited to a reception for 20
NATO Scholars at the White House. My wife, Carol Jean, was nine-months
pregnant with our first child. We reported to the White House, with Carol
Jean looking unusually ready to give birth. That year, however, two pregnant
female tourists touring the White House had snuck into restrooms... and
delivered babies. Each time the Washington Post carried a story, "Another
baby born in the White House." (In those innocent days, no one asked,
"Doesn't the baby's nose look like the President's?) When my wife and I were
about to enter the gates, the Security Officers, already burned twice,
seemed to be watching us with intense suspicion. Carol Jean became nervous!
"I can't go in there. I'll wait for you at Peoples' Drugstore." Shocked, I
said, "You can't do that, we have to go in." She insisted, she would wait.
We had an argument at the White House Gates... and left, assuming that we
would get a chance to meet President Kennedy some other time. The officers
appeared amused, but relieved. The next day, the Style Section of the Post
had a story and photos of JFK with the young NATO Scholars. The Peoples
Drugstore on 15th Street was in time converted to Old Ebbit Grill. I still
have the engraved invitation from the Kennedy White House framed in my
library. The date of the invitation is May 8, 1963.
Our daughter, Jeannine, was born three
weeks later, on May 29, 1963 on Kennedy's birthday. Six months later, on
November 22, he was assassinated on Carol Jean's 21st birthday. Our
daughter, Jeannine, still says, "If only I was born in the White House,
maybe the karma would have been different... and he would not have been
assassinated!" -- Dr. Bülent
Ahmet Bey, a neighbor with a radio, who
was trying to practice his English with us, knocked, but could only say --
"there is suikast". What a way to learn a new word. -- John