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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 16, 1999

I can't believe that we are halfway through the middle of July already!

Oh, no, wait. The temperature for today is slated to be thirty-three Celsius. And, with the humidity, it will feel more like 42 Celsius!

Actually, yeah. I do believe it's the middle of July.

But you know, that's part and parcel of having the season known as summer. Granted, summer isn't exactly my most favourite season (I'm more of a spring/fall kind of guy), but I do admit that there are some nice things about it. It gives you an excuse to eat as much ice cream as possible, you can go swimming, or you can even sit in your apartment in air conditioned comfort if you are too hot to go outside.

And, believe me...when it feels like 42 Celsius outside, I wouldn't want to stay outside that long either.

So, why not spend part of your day reading the latest edition of the Tuesday Timeline? July 16 was a rather interesting date throughout history...and as you'll see in today's entry, the day isn't always linked to a happy moment.

For now, let's take a look at today's celebrity birthdays.

Happy birthday to Bess Myerson, Irwin Rose, Jimmy Johnson, Pierre Koffmann, Stewart Copeland, Jerry Doyle, Michael Flatley, Doug Herzog, Phoebe Cates, Claude Lemieux, Will Ferrell, Larry Sanger, Corey Feldman, Ed Kowalczyk (Live), Graham Robertson, Jamie Oliver, Jayma Mays, Nathan Rogers, and AnnaLynne McCord.

And, here are some of the incidents that happened on July 16 throughout history...

1661 – The first banknotes in Europe are issued by Stockholms Banco, a Swedish bank

1790 – The District of Columbia is established as the capital of the United States after signature of the Residence Act

1887 – Famed (and shamed) baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson is born in South Carolina

1907 – Popcorn king Orville Redenbacher is born in Brazil, Indiana, and actress Barbara Stanwyck is born in Brooklyn, New York

1935 – The world's first parking meter is installed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

1941 – Joe DiMaggio hits safely for 56 consecutive games, setting a record in Major League Baseball that as of 2013 remains

1942 – The mass arrest of over thirteen thousand people of Jewish descent is ordered by the government of Vichy, France

1945 – The United States successfully detonates a plutonium-based test nuclear weapon in New Mexico

1950 – American POW's were massacred by North Korean soldiers in the Chaplain-Medic massacre

1951 – J.D. Salinger's “The Catcher in the Rye” is first published

1965 – The Mont Blanc tunnel connecting France with Italy is opened

1969 – Apollo 11 is launched from Kennedy Space Center – will land on moon's surface just four days later

1979 – Saddam Hussein becomes President of Iraq

1981 - “Cat's In The Cradle” singer Harry Chapin is killed in a car accident at just 38 years old

1994 – Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collides with Jupiter

2003 – Cuban singer Celia Cruz passes away at the age of 77

2004 – Chicago's Millennium Park is opened to the public

2012 – Country singer Kitty Wells dies in Madison, Tennessee at the age of 92

That's quite a lot of history to digest, I know. A lot happened on July 16, didn't it?

Well, there was one incident that I remember very well that happened on July 16...and it was one incident that made quite a lot of people very sad. Especially those who knew of a supposed curse that struck a particular family that was heavily involved in American politics.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the events of July 16, 1999 wasn't the fact that the world lost three people in a plane crash. I don't even think that the biggest tragedy was the fact that one of the people who died was one of the most talked-about people in the world of politics and pop culture. I think the tragedy is that this person's death at just thirty-eight years of age prevented us from knowing just how much life he still had left to live.

This is the story of John F. Kennedy Jr. A man who was born into one of the most influential American families of the 20th century, and a man who along with his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette died on July 16, 1999 after their plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the shores of Martha's Vineyard.

It was just one of those events where you knew exactly where you were when it happened, like when the Challenger exploded, or when the Berlin Wall was torn down, or when Princess Diana was killed, or when 9/11 happened. In my case, I remember John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash very well. I had just turned eighteen two months earlier, and it was the transition year between grade twelve and OAC. It was all over the news and entertainment channels. We had heard all the details.

We knew all about how John F. Kennedy Jr. was set to fly down to Martha's Vineyard to witness the wedding of Kennedy's cousin Rory, and rather than take a commercial jet, John would charter a Piper Saratoga light aircraft himself. John had just received his pilot's license a little more than a year earlier in April 1998.

What John, Carolyn, and Lauren did not know at the time was that very decision would be the one that would cost them their lives. And, the truth of the matter is that there were several factors in play that lead up to the July 16, 1999 crash.

For one, the weather conditions on that night were reported to not be the greatest. Hazy skies reduced visibility, making it difficult to see anything within a certain distance.

For another, John F. Kennedy Jr. only had accumulated a little over three hundred hours of flight time (of which only about a quarter of which was done during the night). And, seventy-two hours of that flight time were done without a certified flight instructor present.

And there were also minor factors as well that could have contributed to the crash. Six weeks prior to the crash, John had fractured his left ankle in a paragliding accident, and had to walk with a cane until the day before the accident, which could have affected his ability to use the controls fully. The flight departed later than what was scheduled. The plane was supposed to depart from the airport at six o'clock, but it left two and a half hours late, when the sun had already set. Even the radio frequencies that John F. Kennedy Jr. had set were programmed incorrectly, although it still isn't known if that was a factor in the events leading up to the crash.

Whatever the case, it was a tragic end to a man's life. A man who grew up experiencing heartache from his early childhood. A man who spent his youth earning a reputation of being a player in the Hollywood scene. A man who by the end of his life had settled down and was looking forward to a future that would not come to be.

John F. Kennedy Jr. was born on November 25, 1960 – the only surviving son of John F. Kennedy – the 35th President of the United States of America – and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. He was the youngest of their two children (sister Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was born in 1957). He also had a younger brother, Patrick, who sadly passed away two days after his birth in August 1963.

It wouldn't be the first death that young “John-John” would experience that year. Of course everyone knows of the day when John lost his father, assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Three days later, on John F. Kennedy's third birthday, John's father was buried, which lead to one of the most iconic photographs ever taken within the 20th century.

John F. Kennedy Jr. grew up in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and graduated from Brown University in 1983. From there, he spent some time at the University of Delhi, worked on a few of the Kennedy special interest projects (Reaching Up, The East Harlem School at Exodus House), and worked for the New York City Office of Business Development for two years. He also dabbled in a little bit of acting work, and he had hopes of making it a full-time career. But his mother didn't approve of that profession at all. Still, his presence in the world of pop culture earned him the title of People's Sexiest Man of 1988, and he was linked romantically (in some cases allegedly) to several high-profile women including Daryl Hannah, Madonna, and Cindy Crawford.

Ultimately, John F. Kennedy Jr. chose the career path of lawyer, earning his J.D. from the New York University School of Law in 1989. But, it wouldn't be until the summer of 1990 before he would earn the right to become a lawyer in New York state (he failed the bar exam twice). For the next four years, he would serve as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney's office before starting up his own political magazine, “George” in 1995.

Right around that time, John F. Kennedy had met Calvin Klein publicist Carolyn Bessette, and the love connection between the two was almost instantaneous. The couple was one of the most well-known in all of New York, and their September 21, 1996 wedding was the press event of the year (even though the actual ceremony itself was performed in secret to prevent the paparazzi from gaining access to the event).

But reports of trouble in the marriage began to surface right around the time of the fatal plane crash that would take their lives and the life of Carolyn's sister, Lauren. It was reported that John F. Kennedy Jr. had spent the last three days of his life away from his wife prior to the plane crash. Model Michael Bergin (who had dated Bessette prior to her marriage to JFK Jr.) revealed in his 2004 memoir that he and Carolyn were still seeing each other even after she had gotten married. And, with the added stress of “George” beginning to plummet in sales, it must have been a very stressful situation for both. Nobody knew whether the couple would eventually weather the storm, stay together, and start up a family of their own. The question of whether John F. Kennedy Jr. would have followed in his father's footsteps and pursued a career in politics would remain unanswered.

The only thing that we did know was that John F. Kennedy was killed in a plane crash on July 16, 1999. And, it was a loss that the surviving members of the Kennedy family would feel for many years to come. In particular, it must have been tough on Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, who became the lone surviving member of her whole family after the death of her brother (mother Jacqueline died in May 1994). It must have been rough on Rory, who should have been celebrating her wedding day...instead she would be mourning the loss of her cousin. And, for those of us outside of the Kennedy clan, many were shaking their heads in sorrow and remarking that the so-called “Kennedy curse” had struck again. But for people in the New York area, the whole city mourned the loss, leaving flowers and sympathy cards outside his former place of residence...wondering what could have been.

And, that's what happened on July 16, 1999.

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