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."
Littell describes his friend as a man motivated by a strong sense of decency and a determination to do good for his friends, as well as those he didn't know.
"To a certain extent, there's a guy who wanted to do the right thing, had the tools to do the right thing and went out and did the right thing," Littell said.
Following in His Father's Footsteps
John F. Kennedy Jr. and Rob Littell pose in this undated photo. Courtesy of Rob Littell.
But what may be most compelling about Kennedy is that he had very clear political ambitions, according to his friends.
"There is no question in my mind whatsoever he wanted to be president of the United States. He wanted to lead the American people and he wanted to do it from a position of strength that he didn't owe anybody," Littell said.
His creation of George magazine was part of his political plan and Littell said he remembered Kennedy's frustration when he heard Hillary Clinton was going to run for senate from New York.
"I remember him up at the vineyard showing me the announcement in The Post and he threw it down, the paper, in good humor," Littell said. "He said, 'She is taking my seat.'"
Kennedy never admitted any political aspirations publicly.
Politics is a path many speculated Kennedy would take, perhaps even toward the nation's highest office. But aside from politics, Littell said Kennedy had plans to become a father.
"His immediate excitement was about having a family in 1999," Littell said. "I talked about it with him. I talked about it with his wife.
"He was just a super sweet guy. He probably could have fit 15 kids on his lap and he would have been a hell of a dad," Littell said. "We are missing a great dad out there, I know that."
Had Kennedy lived, he would be 48 years old today and Littell believes he may have had a career path similar to that of President Barack Obama.
"I'm not sure I predicted that John would go for 2012, but things move quickly. Obama showed up, he had three years as senator, so they probably would have had a similar set of experiences. Obama is a smarter guy, but John has the world experiences and the same level of charm," Littell said. "It's fun to think about Obama versus Kennedy."
Littell thinks of many possibilities Kennedy could have had, but harbors some resentment toward his friend.
"I'm still angry at him. Frankly, he shouldn't have been up there and obviously he shouldn't have crashed," Littell said. "He hurt himself; he hurt other people and the victims were the ones who had to mourn. So, yeah, I'm angry at him."
"We loved the guy. I loved him. America loved him. He knew that and he wanted to give it back, which is a pretty neat thing about him," Littell said.
Kennedy had a vast impact on Littell's life.
"I remember John every day. I remember him as a great person and I remember him as someone that helped me get me through every day," Littell said. "I feel very lucky to have known him."