July 16, 2000 -- A year ago, we woke up to the news that John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane had vanished. With it, perhaps, went the last flash of America’s “Camelot.”
In the weeks afterward, Americans filled the streets of New York to grieve at planned and makeshift memorials for Kennedy, his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and her sister, Lauren Bessette.
But there is no Kennedy family gathering planned for this weekend, a family spokesman says. There is no statement expected from the family or from the magazine he founded, beyond a memorial photo and quote in the current July issue, to mark the sad anniversary.
Nevertheless, a year ago today, Kennedy, his wife and her sister were killed when Kennedy’s single-engine plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod as they flew to a wedding on Martha’s Vineyard.
Even in death, the perennial “sexiest man alive” and son of President John F. Kennedy has kept a typically high, square-jawed profile, whether he would have wanted it that way or not.
His fans can look forward to watching the story of his life and untimely death in a Fox television movie slated for early next year. They may also be able to read about his time editing George in a book planned by a former editor at the magazine.
They may have heard about the storm of protest from typically secretive George staffers about the planned book. And true fans almost certainly have read about the sale of JFK Jr.’s loft apartment in New York City, the disposition of his will, and rumors of his family’s struggles to get over his loss.
From the evidence, America at large has sought to salve its own itch for closure. Right after Kennedy died, a memorial issue of George was a red-hot seller. And the magazine — which was rumored on the ropes in John Jr.’s final days — may have been saved by a surge in newsstand sales and new subscriptions.
Crash Back in Headlines
Lately, the crash itself has been back in the headlines.
A new book claims that Kennedy’s mother, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, had a vision that her son would die in an airplane crash, and that she begged her longtime companion to do anything possible to prevent him from becoming a pilot (the author of that book, Christopher Anderson, will lead a chat on ABCNEWS.com at 5 p.m. EDT).
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report calling the cause of the crash a “failure to maintain control of the airplane” due to spatial disorientation of Kennedy, who had limited experience flying at night. The report added that Kennedy declined a flight instructor’s offer to fly along on the dark, hazy night.
The NTSB report and aspects of the investigation leading up to it reportedly upset Sen. Edward Kennedy so much that a go-between had to carry information between the NTSB and the senator. According to The Boston Globe, Kennedy was angered that the NTSB did not keep the family up to date as it searched for the plane’s wreckage and investigated the crash, and because he felt the press often got key information first.
Loss of a Year Ago
A year ago, on Friday, July 16, 1999, Kennedy’s plane disappeared as it carried its passengers from Fairfield, N.J., near New York City, to the Massachusettes island of Martha’s Vineyard for the wedding of Rory Kennedy.
The news hit the airwaves on Saturday morning, and got more urgent throughout the day.
Over the following days, debris from the plane washed ashore, and the bodies were discovered amidst the wreckage on Wednesday, July 21. The remains were cremated and buried at sea within 24 hours.
Thousands gathered at New York’s Old St. Patrick’s cathedral on Thursday, July 22 for a public memorial service. A makeshift memorial at John and Carolyn Kennedy’s downtown apartment continued to grow.
Friends and family members attended a private memorial at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in New York City on Friday, July 23.
“From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family,” Sen. Edward Kennedy said in a eulogy for his nephew. “He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it. …
“He had amazing grace. He accepted who he was, but he cared more about what he could and should become. He saw things could be lost in the glare of the spotlight. And he could laugh at the absurdity of too much pomp and circumstance. …
“We thank the millions who have rained blossoms down on John’s memory. He and his bride have gone to be with his mother and father, where there will never be an end to love. He was lost on that troubled night — but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled, but cut in half, will live forever in our memory, and in our beguiled and broken hearts.”
ABCNEWS.com’s Michael James contributed to this article.