Amazing how time just goes by … seems like just yesterday … Is it just me, or do these two phrases automatically become part of our vocabulary as, well … time goes by. Anyway … it seems like just yesterday …
I’m going to share a video I had planned to share just after the 2016/17 football season began, prior to NFL week 1, and now, here it is, just after the New Year. Amazing how time just goes by … it seems like just yesterday …
It was the first week in this past September when I came across an article on ESPN about how, coming up, it would be the first time a football season would open without both Tom Brady and Payton Manning starting at quarterback … The article then went on to “take a look back” at what was happening on that opening weekend, August 31, 1997. Believe it or not, August/September 1997 was 19 years ago. 19 years ago … Amazing how time just goes by … seems like just yesterday …
Of all the news going on, on that weekend, 19 years ago, it was the news of the sudden death of Princess Diana which I remember the most. The events of that Saturday night, the week that followed, and the funeral held in London on Saturday, September 6, are still clearly etched in my memory. 19 years. The strong emotion I feel now, and felt while researching the facts to share in this writing, and then in putting this together, have surprised me, at their strength-and vividness. I will just never forget that week, in 1997, 19 years ago.
I write often about the power of a song, or a poem, really, any type of writing, to reach “deep down” within our very souls and beings; the ability to reach our deepest emotions. It is the beauty of such a gift to “bring this out,” even, yes, if it hurts.
I can’t fully explain why I, and so many the world over, felt such a personal connection with Princess Diana. In my case, maybe because we were close to the same age, and her story is so remarkable. When Lady Diana Spencer, at the age of 20, married Prince Charles, I was in broadcasting, and it was the biggest news event, up until that time, that I had been exposed to. And, this was after the hostages were freed from Iran. I still remember the special “commemorative” materials supplied by ABC news, covering every minute detail of the wedding, and the participants.
Diana’s wedding to the Prince of Wales, on July 29, 1981, was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The wedding was held there, instead of Westminster Abbey, because the Cathedral would hold more people. Over 750 million people watched the wedding on television. 600,000 people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple on their way to the ceremony.
For generations, this was, truly, considered a “fairytale” wedding.
Princess Diana seemed to always be in the public eye, and she was considered “the world’s most photographed woman.”
It was Saturday night, August 31, 1997. I had turned on the television, a small black and white portable TV which had something like a 6” screen. I didn’t watch much TV, even then, but, because it was the only “live” show on television, I always tried to watch Saturday Night Live. It was around the 11:30 mark when NBC News broke in with a special news bulletin. There had been a car crash in Paris. No confirmation yet … but … then, the news broke:
What had been feared was officially confirmed:
Princess Diana was fatally injured in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris. With her in the car, also killed, was her companion, Dodi Fayed. The driver, Henri Paul, acting security manager of the Hôtel Ritz Paris, was also killed in the crash.
The news hit me hard. And, yet, I couldn’t exactly explain why. I also knew how big a world-wide event, and story, this was. Yet … I had no one to call. I felt like, so many others around the world, after hearing this news, that I had suffered a personal loss. I can’t explain it, but, something inside me shattered. How personally did this affect me? It was around 11:45PM, and I called my Mother. Yes, I did. I mean, I had to call someone, right? Yes, I woke her up.
Princess Diana’s funeral took place in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, September 6, 1997. Using that same little black and white television, I watched it all. Several hours of global coverage, and I still remember a lot of it.
Two thousand people attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey. More than one million people lined the streets of London. I spent hours watching the procession.
The British television audience totaled 32.10 million, which was one of the United Kingdom’s highest viewing figures ever. Worldwide, two billion people watched the funeral, making it one of the most watched events in history. That’s 2 billion people: The earth’s entire population at that time was 5.8 billion people.
According to news reports, a set of rosary beads was placed in Diana’s hands. Those beads were a gift she had received from Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 … just 1 day before the funeral of Princess Diana.
Originally, it was planned for Princess Diana to be buried in the Spencer family vault in nearby Great Brington. However, Lord Spencer was concerned about public safety and security, with the number of visitors which could overwhelm Great Brington. It was decided that Princess Diana would be buried where her grave could be easily cared for, and visited in privacy, by members of the family. Princess Diana’s grave is on an island within the grounds of Althorp Park, which has been the Spencer family home for centuries.
I remember the procession, the crowds, the Royal Family.
I remember Prime Minister Tony Blair reading 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.
I remember the quote regarding the irony of “The Hunter” becoming “The Hunted.”
I remember Elton John.
During the service, Elton John sang “Candle in the Wind,” which had been re-written in tribute to Princess Diana. Elton John had contacted his writing partner, Bernie Taupin, and asked him to revise the lyrics of his 1973 song “Candle in the Wind,” to honor Diana.
This singing of the song is the only time the song has been performed in public.
Just a month before Princess Diana’s death, it was Diana who had comforted Elton John, at the funeral of a mutual friend, Gianni Versace.
Here is what Bernie Taupin was quoted as saying, about writing the lyrics for “Candle in the Wind 1997: “I thought it was very important to project it from a nation’s standpoint. I wanted to make it sound like a country singing it. From the first couple of lines I wrote, the rest sort of fell into place.”
The song, “Candle in the Wind 1997″ was released as a single in 1997, with the global proceeds going to Princess Diana’s charities.
I am holding a copy of that Cassette Single in my hands right now. Clearly on the case is written: “In loving memory of Diana, Princess of Wales,” along with the information regarding the proceeds donated to the charity.
Now, back to Saturday, September 6, 1997.
Here is the BBC feed of Elton John’s arrival at “the Abbey,” and his live performance.
Note that, arriving with Elton John, is George Michael.
Here is the BBC’s coverage of Elton John’s arrival, and performance, of “Candle in the Wind:”