When John F. Kennedy Jr. tragically died in a plane crash alongside his wife Carolyn and her sister Lauren, he was one of the most recognizable people in America. His face was on the cover of magazines and he and Carolyn were regularly hounded by photographers, but his social circle was small, and his close associates knew him intimately. One such confidant was Carole Radziwill.
Before she was a Real Housewife, Radziwill was married to JFK Jr.'s cousin and best friend Anthony. Today, she published an essay in the Daily Mail about her friendship with the first son and his wife, to mark the 20th anniversary of their deaths.
The piece is wide-ranging, covering everything from how much society has changed over the past 20 years—"1999 was pre-9/11, pre-governing by tweet, pre-Kardashians, pre-Tinder, pre-kale, pre-woke, pre-Netflix and chill"—to the overwhelming sadness she felt losing not only John and Carolyn, but also her husband to cancer just a few weeks after the crash.
"On that day, just before midnight, a small plane went into the ocean and three people died. They were all close to me. At the time, my lifeline," she writes.
"My husband's cousin, John Kennedy; his wife, Carolyn, my closest friend, and her older sister Lauren Bessette. I lost everything that night, I wasn't the only one. We all lost something. It was personal for me, and for their friends and family, but it was also bigger."
In addition to sharing her grief, Radzwill also poignantly reflects on the Kennedys' wedding.
"It was the most famous wedding of the year, the decade. And no one but the thirty-two close friends and family who arrived, knew," she writes.
But the day didn't go entirely as planned. She says that JFK Jr. almost couldn't find his wedding shirt.
"'I can't find my shirt. Anthony!' He was accusing. 'Where is it? What'd you do?'" Carole recalls John saying.
"It was their childhood summed up in five frantic minutes, three decades of hi-jinx and pranks between two men with an unshakeable bond. Anthony didn't hide John's shirt. John didn't know where it was. Anthony found the shirt. They were the odd couple. John scattered and impulsive; Anthony methodical and sensible. They couldn't live without each other, and they didn't."
Two decades after her friends' deaths, Radziwill says her grief has quieted.
"The pain of losing them, once so acute it was unbearable, has eroded over time. Somewhere along the way their deaths became a thing I am able to live with. They inhabit my memory as their forever 30-something selves, while I turned 40 and then 50 and now 55. They are trapped in 1999, like a fossil under hardened amber," she writes.
"It's difficult to know what life would be like today, if they were here. I only know the plans we made that didn't happen. When someone dies young you mourn what was, and you mourn what could have been."
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