The JFK Jr. Tragedy

It's hard to believe, but it has been maybe a year or so since America lost its prince, John F. Kennedy Jr.

An entire nation mourned on that fateful day–probably last spring, but maybe even the summer before–when the plane he was piloting to some relative's wedding on one of those islands off the coast of Massachusetts like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard plunged into the body of water it was flying over.

Within hours of the crash, journalists and TV news crews from around the world had descended upon the scene. The networks suspended their regular programming as millions of us watched the monumental story unfold at home, glued to our televisions for the latest word on the status of JFK Jr. and his wife, whose name escapes us at the moment. It may have started with a "C." Or maybe a "K." Kathryn? No, that's not it.

As with the death of his father, every one of us can remember exactly where we were when we heard the news.

"I think I was driving with my girlfriend to her parents' place, and we heard about it on the radio," said Andy Zeigler of Tarrytown, NY. "Actually, I think I'm thinking of Princess Di. I definitely remember it was a huge deal at the time, though."

"When I got home from work, my roommate told me that JFK Jr. had died in a plane crash," said Richard Pollian of Duncanville, TX. "I distinctly remember thinking to myself, 'Huh.'"

A year or so after the tragedy, despite exhaustive efforts by federal investigators and the media, many questions remain: Wasn't there somebody else on board besides JFK Jr. and what's-her-name? What was the cause of the crash, again? And did those aviation experts who were all over the news that whole week after the crash say it could have been averted or not? Some of these questions have been answered. Still others have been answered, too, but those answers cannot quite be recalled at the moment.

John F. Kennedy Jr. at the <i>George</i> launch maybe two or three years before his death.

The questions do not end with the crash. The loss of John-John has left us with a host of what-ifs to ponder. One can only wonder what might have been, had he lived: Would his George magazine, which folded several months ago, have survived slightly longer than it did without its leader? Some believe it was poised to hang on another year or two. Would he have been photographed rollerblading shirtless in Central Park? Likely, though he hinted at a shift toward shirtless frisbee-throwing. Would he have gone on to make more allusions to the possibility of maybe one day running for public office? He showed signs. Tragically, we will never know for certain.

Come to think of it, maybe it was Cape Cod they were headed to.

Yes, John F. Kennedy Jr., the one remaining crown jewel in America's royal family, was cruelly taken from us 10 to 18 months ago. It probably was summertime, most likely the summer before last, since the summer of 2000 was too recent. But summertime definitely sounds right. For who among us can't faintly recall those indelible televised images of onlookers milling about the shoreline in shorts and tank tops as Coast Guard officials or somebody like that went about their rescue efforts? The millions of us who clung to our television sets in those unforgettable hours following the crash sort of can.

But regardless of when the crash occurred, or where, or who was on board, one thing is certain: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. may be gone, but he is not completely forgotten.