Long before the Piper Saratoga that John F. Kennedy Jr. was piloting crashed off Martha’s Vineyard on the hazy night of July 16, 1999, Jackie Kennedy Onassis feared her son would die in a plane crash.
“In the latter years of her life, Jackie had a recurring premonition that John would be killed piloting his own plane. She pleaded with Maurice [Tempelsman, her longtime companion] to do whatever it took to keep John from becoming a pilot,” says a new book, The Day John Died, which chronicles the fatal accident.
Although she encouraged her son to live fully, his mother could not stand the thought of his piloting a plane, says the book by Christopher Andersen.
It also says that an American Airlines jet changed course to avoid colliding with Kennedy’s plane that evening, that Kennedy and wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy had smoothed out their marital difficulties and were ready to start a family, and that as early as 1997 Kennedy expressed interest in running for the Senate.
Kennedy did not follow through because he feared his wife might not bear the strain of a heated political campaign, the book says.
Andersen, whose book is being released Tuesday by publisher William Morrow, said it is based on interviews with hundreds of family members, friends, lovers, journalists and others.
It completes Andersen’s Camelot trilogy, which also includes Jack and Jackie (1996) and Jackie After Jack (1998). It also follows his 1998 book on Princess Diana, The Day Diana Died.
Familiar Faces, Places
Calls to Kennedy’s cousin, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, and to Sen. Ted Kennedy, a frequent family spokesman, were not immediately returned. Andersen said John’s sister Caroline and his wife’s family declined to be interviewed for the book.
For anyone who watched the days of media coverage surrounding Kennedy’s death, most of the book’s material is familiar.
There’s the flawed weather report Kennedy saw, indicating the weather was good when it was not. There’s the huge shrine of flowers, cards and other gifts left outside Kennedy’s Manhattan loft.
And then there are the book’s 60 photographs, many of which are also etched in the public psyche, including Little John peeping out from under President Kennedy’s Oval Office desk.
“There has been a lot of posthumous character assassination,” Andersen said. “But I’m a warts-and-all biographer and if John had any character flaws, I couldn’t find them.”