Waiting for one of their own

Vigil: With word of the crash, New Yorkers began gathering outside the home of JFK Jr., waiting for him to come back

John F. Kennedy Jr.

July 19, 1999|By COX NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK -- John F. Kennedy Jr. is a New Yorker, and his fellow residents wanted him home. One way or the other.

They began gathering Saturday night outside his home in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of TriBeCa. Some stayed through the night. By noon yesterday, the crowd held steady at 60 or 70. They were of all ages, but mostly young, late 20s and early 30s, and mostly women.

It was a United Nations of nationalities, but New Yorkers all. They came to this city, said many, for the anonymity and opportunity it affords its residents, even the famous.

They came to 20 North Moore St. to light candles and place flowers and notes and prayers on the stoop of one of their own. The street was hot, the air heavy, sweetened by the lilies and roses that began spilling down the steps and onto the sidewalk.

Pete, a neighbor of Kennedy's, stood across the street in the shadows of his doorway.

"I'm glad the people are coming here," he said. "It's a nice thing, to come here and leave a flower, not an intrusion. This isn't a Princess Di thing. Some say he's American royalty. Maybe he is. But to us, he's a neighbor. Just a nice guy who's living his life."

Pete points to a TV crew videotaping an interview with a young man who had just left Bubby's, a bistro down on the corner, where eggs and toast cost $11 and Kennedy was known to grab a sandwich occasionally.

"That guy with his face in the microphone? He's saying he knows Kennedy. He doesn't. None of us know Kennedy. You can live here and not get hassled, no matter who you are. That's New York.

"Bob DeNiro and Harvey Keitel live on the street," Pete says. "Nobody bothers them. Kennedy is a Kennedy, sure. But he peeled himself away from all those politician Kennedys. He became what he wanted, became who he wanted. Here. In New York."

The flowers pile up across the street.

Many of the younger women say they are here not because John Kennedy Jr. is the son of a president, son of an international beauty, but because he is John Kennedy Jr. He's just a nice guy, they say.

Pete the neighbor speaks for many of them.

"I bumped into Kennedy last week right there across the street. He had his cast on. We said hello. One day he's going about his life, the magazine, a walk in Central Park, a stroll to Bubby's. Simple things. Life. And then, he's not here. You look up at his apartment, and you think, there's probably a couple of dirty sneakers near the door, some unopened mail, glasses near the sink. It's sad. He should be here, not somewhere off Martha's Vineyard. Right here, walking down the street."

Pub Date: 7/19/99

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