The The Kennedy Crash: The Family - Clan was gathered for a wedding. Then came a chilling message

SO CONSUMING was the worry at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport on Saturday that nobody told the catering company hired to feed the 275 guests at the wedding of Rory Kennedy that the ceremony had been called off. Their vans arrived at three in the tense afternoon.

But by then, most of the rest of the world knew tragedy had returned to haunt America's most famous political dynasty as it had done so many times. Inside the compound, prayers were being said in desperate and fading hope for the life of the only son of the late President John F Kennedy. Within the walls of what the world came to know as Camelot - the Kennedy estate set in a picturesque town of clapperboard homes and rose hedges on the southern shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts - the clan was struggling to absorb an almost unthinkable reality.

Thirty-six hours after the private Piper plane of JFK vanished from radar screens off the island of Martha's Vineyard, no trace of him, his wife, Carolyn Bessette, or her sister, Lauren Bessette, had been found. That JFK, his wife and her sister had been heading here for a wedding deepens the agony.

Rory Kennedy is a daughter of the late Robert Kennedy - her mother, Ethel, was pregnant with her when RFK was shot to death in California in 1968. Nineteen months ago she cradled her dying brother Michael in her arms after a skiing accident at Aspen Colorado. This weekend, her wedding was postponed because of the presumed death of her cousin. All the clan gathered here on Saturday for her marriage to Mark Bailey, a book and film critic from New York. Many guests were visiting the tiny John F Kennedy Museum on Main Street on Saturday, when Pearl Guba, its manager made a grim announcement. "They were preparing to go to the wedding, some of them from Ireland, and they were totally shocked when we told them," he said. "It's a good thing John's mother, Jackie, died first. She was so fond of her son."

By yesterday, many of the guests in the compound, a main beachside house and several small cottages, had slipped discreetly away, leaving a core of family members. They included Senator Edward Kennedy, 67, the only principal member of the Kennedy cast to make it past middle age. And there were three priests who had come to Cap Cod to bless the wedding vows. Just 19 months ago the same priests had attended the funeral of Michael Kennedy, JFK's cousin, killed in Aspen on New Year's Eve 1997.

On Saturday, a brief mass was said on the steps of the main house, overlooking a huge sweeping lawn, with 50 friends and family. In the streets of Hyannisport, yellow ribbons were wound round trees, tied by neighbours sharing in the grief and worry. "I think the family could use some hope," said Melissa Lewandowski, who put up one of the bows.

"If they saw a yellow ribbon, they would know that the community is hoping with them."

The people of Hyannisport still remember when the compound was an oasis of joy. In an earlier era, it was the gathering point for family members to summer parties and days by the sea. But these days, grief more often brings this clan together.

"It's so sad," said Janice Beechum, a local resident. "The only time everybody comes down here now is when there is a Kennedy tragedy."

For the many children brought along for the cancelled wedding the sombre mood was too hard to comprehend. At mid-afternoon on Saturday, a kite- flying party strayed on to the lawn. Later, RFK junior, another cousin of John's, was seen navigating a rocky breakwater on the beach with his small son on his shoulders.

"There's a lot of children running around, which always seems to change the atmosphere," said Brian O'Connor, a family spokesman. "People are happy to see one another."

Journalists and TV crews from around the world were once more pressed up against police fences on the streets from the compound yesterday, waiting for word from a family that has become so practised in dealing with loss. And the family are waiting for the US coastguard to say they had turned from search and rescue to accident investigation. Then the family will have to prepare for yet another journey into grief, and more funerals.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence