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Thousands leave piece of selves on his steps

By Fred Kaplan, Globe Staff, 07/22/99

NEW YORK - They came in droves, all day and into the night - thousands of people, of all ages and many races - to lay flowers, poems, letters, and candles at the apartment-house doorstep of John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Carolyn.

Memorial service church becomes instant shrine

The entire block where the Kennedys lived - on North Moore Street, in the fashionable but normally quiet TriBeCa district of downtown Manhattan - looked like nothing less than a saint's shrine.

The crowds had been building for the previous two days, but ''after they heard his body had been found, this place exploded,'' said one police officer on the scene.

Vanessa Cavaco, 24, came from Queens, nearly an hour's subway ride. ''I wasn't born when JFK was president, so John Jr. represented to me what the Kennedys were all about,'' she said. ''I feel it's all over now.''

Peter Garcia, a carpenter from just up the street who took the day off to come, said: ''He seemed like a good guy. I liked him from the time he was a little boy. I felt like he was part of my family.''

Francesca Bassolino, who was on vacation from Florida but grew up in Brooklyn, said, ''You feel like you leave a little part of yourself here.''

Signs and posters, taped on the walls of Kennedy's building and adjoining buildings, expressed similar sentiments. One, a large pencil drawing of the famous photograph of Kennedy as a 3-year-old saluting his father's funeral parade, read, ''Has anyone here seen my old friend John John?'' Another read, ''Good night, sweet prince and princess.''

A massive wreath stood in front of the apartment, with a card indicating it had been sent by the Correction Officers Benevolent Association.

In the middle of the afternoon, the volunteer group Variety came in a truck to pick up about half the flowers that had been laid nearby - so many flowers, the police felt they posed a safety hazard - and take them to hospitals throughout the city.

Still, well before nightfall, new bouquets had piled up at least as high as before.

The irony is that TriBeCa, which stands for the Triangle Below Canal Street, is a neighborhood without much street life, and most of the people who live there like it that way. Once an industrial district, with vast converted lofts, it has become a place to live for celebrities who value privacy, most notably Kennedy and Robert De Niro.

Kennedy led a successful fight to stop a developer from turning a windowless storage building across the street from his apartment into a movie theater complex, because it would have drawn the kinds of crowds lined up outside yesterday.

Two blocks away, on White Street and 6th Avenue, a couple of dozen flowers and letters lay outside the apartment building of Lauren Bessette, Carolyn's sister, who also died in the plane crash.

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 07/22/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.


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