I had turned 30 years old just a month prior on July 31st, 1997.
Little did I know how the age of thirty would change my life forever, then.
I remember that night vividly. It was a Sunday night, around nine or ten that night. I was home in my apartment in South Miami, watching tv, when the news that Diana, Princess of Wales was injured in a car crash in Paris, and would later die from her injuries.
My next door neighbors were from London. I remember being in shock. I quickly got dressed and ran to the local neighborhood bar, around the corner, that was in full swing of Sunday T-Dance.
I ran into the bar, the lights were flashing in the ceiling and people were dancing and partying without a care. I jumped into the DJ Booth, and called to the DJ to stop the music and put the televisions on full blast.
The party stopped.
The news was flashing across the screens in the bar. And the sobs began. We stood there for what seemed like hours, as the international news told the story of Diana being trailed by paparazzi through the streets of Paris, and Henri Paul at the wheel.
In one fateful entry of a Parisian Tunnel, Henri Paul’s car hit a pylon in the tunnel and Diana was fatally wounded in that crash, and would later die in Pitie-Salpetnere Hospital in Paris France.
When I was a boy, on July 29, 1981 I remember getting up at the crack of dawn, and watching the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana. That day I had gone to work with my father. And I had a television in the car, that I could plug into the car lighter for power so I did not miss a moment of the wedding ceremony.
Diana was part of my life, she was part of my being. In those years from 1994 to 1998, I was waiting to die from AIDS. I was so very sick back then. But Diana, in her simple loving way, embraced the sick and dying in a way nobody we knew had before.
In her own way, from afar, I knew that she loved me and cared for me, by extension, the men she knew, who were fighting the same battle an ocean away.
The News of Diana did not stop. The American press, at the time, had non stop coverage of all the sordid details of the night before the accident. Parsing every word, scrutinizing every action, looking for that smoking gun, of Who Done It.
September 6th 1997 – was the funeral…
We know today, what Prince William and Prince Harry have said about that day. We’ve heard the stories re-told with insight of all these years, through the eyes and hearts of her sons, William and Harry.
Watching those young boys walk behind their mothers flag draped casket, being carried by a cortege of horses and guards, was heart wrenching. I just could not imagine what was going through their young minds during that very long and arduous walk to Westminster Abbey.
I’ve walked inside of Westminster Abbey myself when I was in London, many years hence.It is a beautiful space.
The entire world stopped for those few hours to pay our respects to Diana, Princess of Wales, The People’s Princess. The words of her brother, The Earl Spencer, were pointed and biting. The message he sent to the world was this …
“We your family, pledge that William and Harry would grow up without the fear of cameras in their faces, and they would grow up as normal boys, come hell or high water.”
Well, we know today all that happened since that fateful day.
William and Harry, did indeed grow up, into fine young and noble men.
I think to myself, his thought … There in Miami, at a church downtown, was held a memorial mass for Diana, Princess of Wales. While there, memorial books were placed for mourners to sign. I had written letters to both Prince William and Prince Harry. And I stuck those letters, within the book, that would be sent to London, with the millions of others, from all over the world.
I wonder if William and Harry ever got to see any of those letters, and if they read them?
I watched several special presentations herein Montreal, over the past few weeks. And as I listened to them talk, I wondered if they read any of the millions of greetings that were sent to them specifically?
We all know the stories. We all know the speculation and the conspiracy theories.
William and Harry carry their mother’s legacies as best they can. And now that William is a father, and Harry an uncle, one day, Prince George and Princess Charlotte will one day know who their grandmother had been, and how much she loved her boys.
Diana lives in the heart of her children today. And every time I see both William and Harry, I see a little bit of Diana in each of them.
We honor Diana, The People’s Princess today.