1999-07-23 / Columnists

On The Beach...With Beverly Baxter

Just as thirty-six years ago it was the experience of those before me, I think it will now be the youth of my generation who will forever be in some profound way impacted by the grim remembrance of where they were on that steamy July morning when we first heard the jolting news about the apparent death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in a plane crash. My personal immediate response was "Oh, not John!". We've intruded upon the gates at the Kennedy compound far too often; but somehow one would never fathom that John, the prince and promise of the Kennedy legacy, could be taken. Certainly not cut down with such cruel abruptness just as he was beginning to graciously bloom. He was our nation's son; and for those of us who grew up and came of age with him, he was like our surrogate brother. After his mother's death, we watched a son become a man. He was his mother's son and we as a "national family" watched him and knew she'd be so proud. He even seemed to be more Bouvier than Kennedy---as if somehow the legacy of her elegant parade could shield and forever protect him. The heartbreak of his untimely death was that it was as if he had a singular birthright, after all he, and as a nation we, endured, to the promise of a sustained and healthy life. Until this morning's news of his body having been found, I still kept thinking that these three young beautiful, healthy, and accomplished people were still alive--somewhere. That they were miraculously alive and together on some remote noman's island---waiting to be found--and that "we"---science and technology—was somehow failing them.

John F. Kennedy jr. should be remembered as a man who, despite the intrusive burden his last name imposed, he wore it well. He wore it purposefully and with dignity and grace. Although his life was tragically short, it was a life well done. In that, he fulfilled the legacy of both his mother and father. However, we as a nation mourn with this sense of an opportunity denied for all he had yet to live--and give.


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