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Sunday, July 18, 1999 Published at 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK


World: Americas

America shaken by tragedy

A worker at a Chicago newspaper reads of JFK JR's disappearance

By BBC Washington Correspondent Rob Watson

Since news first broke of John F Kennedy Junior's disappearance, America has talked of little else.

"He made a splash with his magazine. He made a match with a beautiful young woman and met disaster off Martha's Vineyard this weekend," said Sam Donaldson, a presenter for US television network ABC on one of the Sunday political shows.

His co-presenter Cokie Roberts added: "It was another day when the nation just stood still waiting to hear the news and fate of another member of the Kennedy family."


[ image: A bouquet by his father's grave reads:
A bouquet by his father's grave reads: "Praying for John Jr"
The grave of President Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, in Washington DC, was a focus for grief, and as time goes by the crowd keeps growing.

Fans of the New York Yankees baseball team were asked to rise during a Saturday night game for a moment of silence and prayer for the Kennedy family.

In Dallas, passers-by placed wreaths at the former Texas School Book Depository, the building from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John Kennedy in 1963.

Tributes from leaders

Politicians also paid tribute to John Kennedy Junior.


[ image: John JR was an icon from an early age]
John JR was an icon from an early age
In statement, President Bill Clinton said: "For more than 40 years now, the Kennedy family has inspired Americans to public service, strengthened our faith in the future and moved our nation forward.

"Through it all, they have suffered much and given more," he said.

Vice President Al Gore said: "At the age of three, he was the most famous person in the world because with his innocent and brave young heart, he helped out nation and the world endure some of the hardest hours of our history."

Family dogged by tragedy

The assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, was a defining moment in American history and part of the tragedy that seems to have dogged America's best-known family.
[ image: Robert Kennedy shortly after he was shot]
Robert Kennedy shortly after he was shot

Five years later JFK's brother Robert was also assassinated while campaigning for the presidency.

And ironically, it is 30 years to the day since the mysterious car accident at Chappaquiddick, which Ted Kennedy survived but where his passenger drowned. At the time, he wondered if his family was under a spell.

Since then, the family has mourned more deaths and now the disappearance of JFK Junior. A huge but reluctant celebrity, he seemed remarkably well adjusted to his family's traumas.

"People come up to you all the time and say, 'I got into politics because of your father brought me in there,'" John Kennedy Junior once said.

The Kennedys and their friends are now gathered at the family home in Hyannis Port Massachusetts, where JFK Junior and his wife had been expected for a family wedding.



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