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Bessette Family Deals With Tragedy

July 19, 1999

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) _ For more than three decades, the Kennedy family has had to deal with its misfortunes in public view. Now, another much more private family will have to do the same.

As the search for the missing plane of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and her sister turned from a rescue to a recovery operation, the Bessette family found itself coping with the same media spotlight that rarely leaves the Kennedy family.

Kennedy, 38, his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 33, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were presumed dead in waters off Martha’s Vineyard where their small plane crashed Friday evening.

As the search continued through the weekend, reporters circled the Greenwich home of the Bessette girls’ mother and stepfather.

The Bessette family has remained secluded and has not issued any statement.

A steady stream of visitors went into the home Sunday as police, stationed in front of the family’s modest house and at the end of the private road leading to the house, ordered reporters to stay away or risk arrest for trespassing.

``It’s just tragic to think of the Bessette family _ with two of their children and the loss of that,″ said Debbie Lamoureux, who attended St. Mary High School with Carolyn.

About 200 people attended a Mass at St. Michael’s Church, offering condolences and memories of women they say captivated them long before they became part of the Kennedy clan.

Olive Curran, a friend of Jean Kennedy Smith _ JFK Jr.’s aunt _ said a special rosary for both families.

``I can’t really understand it,″ Curran said. ``For the Kennedys, it’s more than any family should have to bear, and for the Bessettes, I feel so sorry for this family who are waiting for two daughters to come home.″

Robert Cardini, who went to middle school with Carolyn, hasn’t seen her in almost 20 years. But he and another childhood friend stopped by the church to drop off two bouquets of flowers.

``We wanted to let her know we’re thinking about her,″ he said. ``She was a great kid. She was always smiling _ a beautiful girl.″

Cardini’s flowers were placed in front of three white candles lit for Kennedy, his wife and sister-in-law.

The Rev. Michael Moynihan, pastor of St. Michael’s, gathered a group of about 40 children in front of the altar to explain what had happened. He told the children that some of their parents went to St. Mary High School with Carolyn Bessette. The school, which sits on church property, has since been converted into a grammar school called Greenwich Catholic.

``In a special way today, we remember the Kennedy family and the Bessette family.″

The Bessette family enjoyed a relatively quiet, anonymous life before Carolyn married into America’s most famous family in 1996.

Carolyn and her twin sisters, Lauren and Lisa, were raised by their mother, Ann Freeman, who worked as a teacher and administrator in the New York public schools, and their stepfather, Richard Freeman, an orthopedic surgeon.

When Carolyn Bessette graduated from St. Mary in 1983, classmates voted her ``The Ultimate Beautiful Person.″ Lamoureux said the award was given to her because she ``was beautiful inside and out.″

``We kind of knew she was really in a different realm than the rest of us,″ Lamoureux said. ``Everybody in the entire class loved her.″

Lauren Bessette, who is 18 months older than Carolyn, graduated from Greenwich High School in 1982. She worked as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in New York City.

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