At Kennedy compound, family hopes for best but fears the worst
By Kate Zernike and Cindy Rodriguez, Globe Staff, 07/18/99
HYANNISPORT -- The clan has always come to their storied compound here to
celebrate or to mourn what matriarch Rose Kennedy once described as the
agony and the ecstasy of her family's so public life.
Yesterday, it was a particularly poignant clash of those two extremes.
Rory Kennedy and Mark Bailey stroll along the beach in front of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis after hearing news of JFK Jr.'s plane disappearance. The two were scheduled to be married today. (Globe Photo / Stephen Rose)
Dozens of family members had gathered in the intense sunshine of a
midsummer weekend to celebrate the wedding of Robert F. Kennedy's youngest
daughter, Rory. But soon, the festivities turned into a vigil, with the
family praying they would not have to hold yet another funeral.
The waiting began in the earliest hours of the morning, just hours after
guests had gone to bed following the rehearsal dinner, with a phone call
alerting Senator Ted Kennedy that his nephew's plane had disappeared. At
dawn, a friend visiting the compound described the mood as "very worried,
By midmorning, with an American flag and several abandoned white wedding
tents flapping in a strong offshore breeze, the family gathered for an
impromptu Mass on the porch of Ethel Kennedy's shingled Cape, praying for
the missing couple as well as for the would-be bride and groom.
There were the same three priests who only 19 months ago presided at
Michael Kennedy's funeral -- one who said the last rites for Rose Kennedy;
another, the officiant at RFK's funeral, and the third, the priest who
married the missing, John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette
At the gates of the compound, gawkers arrived in the early morning to catch
a glimpse of the white dress or celebrity guests, only to be told that the
wedding had been postponed.
Around 1 p.m., Sen. Kennedy phoned a close friend and said the family was
holding out "hope upon hope that a miracle might happen.'' But, the friend
said, Kennedy's voice sounded tired and flat.
The senator, who had planned to go to Martha's Vineyard for an early
afternoon fundraiser, paced the lawn amid tiny fourth generation Kennedys.
JFK Jr.'s cousin, former US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, sat on the porch
talking to friends, and all day long, pairs of cousins and siblings took to
the beach, as they had the winter morning of Michael's funeral.
The 275 wedding guests had been called in early morning and told that the
wedding was postponed indefinitely. But out of confusion, stunned grief --
or perhaps simply because they had other things on their mind -- family
members had forgotten to call off the caterers, who arrived at 3 p.m. with
two trucks of food for a 6 p.m. wedding. Soon flowers, too, began arriving,
but it was unclear whether they were in grief or in anticipation of the
By midafternoon, as the family waited for some word, the scene came to
resemble happier gatherings here, as the bride and her husband-to-be, Mark
Bailey, came out with about 20 family members to fly kites on the immense
lawn, site of so many photographed family football games.
"There's a lot of children running around, which always seems to change
the atmosphere,'' said Brian O'Connor, spokesman for the former
Congressman. "People are happy to see one another.''
Would-be wedding guests who came by in the early morning hours left quietly
in the afternoon as family members began to arrive. William Kennedy Smith,
JFK's cousin, arrived at Otis Air Force Base. Caroline Kennedy, John's
older sister, was on a rafting vacation in the West, and had not been
planning to attend the wedding, but President Clinton had reportedly
telephoned her to offer her assistance in flying back east.
In a town where locals defiantly refuse to become agape at the frequent
Kennedy sightings, people couldn't help but comment on how the family
seemed to have such a run of bad luck, or as most people called it, a