10 Years Later: Remembering JFK Jr.

A decade has elapsed since an ill-fated flight ended in the death of Camelot's son.

The media and the nation watched intensely as rescuers searched for 38-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr.'s lost plane. He had piloted the aircraft that carried his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette.

"I didn't have any hope. Planes don't get lost, so I had this terrible sense of horror for my friend and I also had a personal sense of, 'Oh, my God, I'm going to be mourning my friend my whole life,'" said Kennedy's friend of 20 years Rob Littell.

Littell's intuition was correct. Kennedy and his passengers died when their plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean as it made its way toward Martha's Vineyard for a Kennedy cousin's wedding.

Once again the country had to mourn the untimely death of a Kennedy -- one who had come to represent a critical link to the nation's favorite fairy tale. Even today, Kennedy's close friends, like Littell, still grieve for what could have been.

"He wanted to go home. He wanted to go to the White House. He wanted to become the president of the United States," Littell said. "Over the years that I knew him he had been preparing for that."

Who Was JFK Jr.?

Kennedy had been in the spotlight almost since birth. He was born just 17 days after his father won the White House and was still an infant when his father and namesake became president.

The nation was captivated by the Kennedys and their small children.

But the glare intensified following John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963. The image of a 3-year-old JFK Jr. saluting his father's casket on his young birthday was ingrained in the nation's cultural collective memory.

From that point forward, the boy nicknamed John John would generate a large amount of publicity.

"If a camera hit him, he considered that a compliment. He loved the idea of getting attention, it was validating," Littell said. "He had been groomed that way."

In 1988, People magazine named him the sexiest man alive and his personal life became tabloid fodder. Still, Littell said Kennedy just wanted to be an average guy.

"He wanted to be a regular guy, which is ultimately what he kind of became to his great favor and to everybody else's favor, I think," Littell said.

Littell and Kennedy went to school together and even were roommates at one point.

"When I met John, he was charming. He was funny and he was smart. Interestingly enough, he wasn't the most talented guy I'd ever met," Littell said. "But what was interesting about him over the 20 years, by the time he passed on at 39 years old, he was the most talented guy I knew. He was the most passionate guy I knew. He had the most energy and a lot of it was from life experiences."


John F. Kennedy Jr. (far left) is pictured with Rob Littell (far right) in this undated photo. Courtesy of Rob Littell.

Littell and Kennedy were so close that Kennedy gave a speech at Littell's 1991 wedding rehearsal dinner.

"I think everyone has a certain -- they gain things from their friends. They observe their friends, they take certain things from all the relationships you have with people," Kennedy said during his speech to Littell and his bride-to- be Fran. "I think, really, more than any other couple or people that I know, there was a sense when Rob and Fran met that they figured out something a lot earlier about men and women."

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