Mourners arrive for N.Y. Mass
Clintons among those attending
July 23, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A day after casting the cremated remains of the Kennedy plane crash victims into the sea, their relatives were gathering Friday for a private memorial Mass in New York.
An invitation-only group of about 350 people, including President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, was arriving at the Church of St. Thomas More on Manhattan's Upper East Side for the 11 a.m. service.
The stately, 126-year-old church is where Kennedy's mother, Jacqueline Onassis, worshipped.
The Mass was "to celebrate the lives" of John F. Kennedy Jr., 38, and his wife of nearly three years, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 33.
It was to be conducted by the Rev. Charles O'Byrne, the Catholic priest who performed the couple's September 21, 1996 wedding ceremony on Cumberland Island along Georgia's Atlantic coast.
O'Byrne also participated in Thursday's private memorial aboard the USS destroyer Briscoe, from where the remains of three crash victims were released by their families into the ocean.
The Kennedys, who have lived their lives in the glare of the media spotlight, requested the service not be broadcast.
The third victim of the crash one week ago off Martha's Vineyard was Carolyn's sister, Lauren Bessette, who was 34.
She was to be remembered with a private service Saturday at an Episcopal church in her family's hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut.
Along with members of the Kennedy family, Lauren and Carolyn Bessette's mother, Ann Freeman, and stepfather Dr. Richard Freeman, were expected at the Manhattan Mass. So was Lauren's twin sister, Lisa Ann.
The twins were the first children born to Ann and William Bessette who divorced when the girls were young.
There are to be two eulogies -- one from Sen. Edward Kennedy, John Jr.'s uncle; the other from Hamilton South, a friend of Carolyn Bessette's family.
There will be two musical performances at the Mass -- from hip-hop singer Wyclef Jean, formerly of the Fugees and the O Freedom Gospel Choir.
One of John Jr.'s cousins, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was to accompany the Clintons to Washington.
The group that flew to New York aboard Air Force One also included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who is married to Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle; and Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.
The Church of St. Thomas More has become an impromptu shrine, much like Kennedy's apartment in New York's Tribeca neighborhood and the Boston library named for his father.
Scores of bouquets, cards and stuffed animals were left outside the church before the families' arrival.
Security in the neighborhood is tight and many of those who came to witness the comings and goings in person were stuck behind police barricades, with the church out of view.
People who live near the church have been asked to stay inside their homes until 3 p.m. Streets have been closed to and residents were told parking garages would be shut.
The privacy of the occasion -- and of Thursday's service aboard the Briscoe -- contrasted with a public Mass held by New York's Irish community.
Thousands gathered Thursday at Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in the city's Little Italy section, to honor Kennedy, his wife and her sister.
Their bodies were recovered Wednesday in the waters off Martha's Vineyard. Authorities said the three were killed on impact when the single-engine plane piloted by Kennedy spiraled into Atlantic Ocean.
The medical examiner who conducted autopsies said the three victims all died instantaneously from multiple trauma injuries caused by the plane crash.
Pieces of wreckage from Kennedy's plane recovered from the ocean floor -- including an 8- to 10-foot section of the fuselage -- were being carried ashore aboard the USS Grasp. The Navy salvage ship was due to dock Friday in Newport, Rhode Island.
From there, the wreckage of the single-engine Piper Saratoga was to be trucked to Otis Air National Guard base on Cape Cod in neighboring Massachusetts. That's where investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the pieces, trying to determine the cause of the accident.
The NTSB has said its probe could take six to nine months.
NTSB: JFK Jr.'s plane shows no in-flight break-up or fire
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, MA, Cape Cod's Daily Newspaper
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.