George Cassutto's Cyberlearning World

A Family E-Mail Exchange: On Princess Diana

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Posted by George Cassutto on August 31, 1997 at 11:28:27:


Princess Diana, 1961-1997

Hello Everyone,

It is a sad time that my sister has chosen to write us all. Very understandable in that we must all process the events that we hear in the news. Even though we did not know her personally, she might as well have been a friend or family member, and when we lose such prominent people who are in our lives even indirectly, we must move through the grieving process. I too have been addicted to the news. After first being notified by my Internet news program, I then moved to the TV where I have been inundated by photos, retrospectives, and discussion on her contribution to the world and on the role of the paparazzi in her death. I was disappointed that neither of the ministers in my church even mentioned her from the pulpit. We are all grieving, and it is often our faith that helps us deal with these events, but Diana was not on the agenda at my church, and I left the service with the same emotional hole that I entered with.

It is always difficult to say good-bye. I also find it interesting to the extent that Diana played in the psyche of our family. Carolyn seemed to be the most interested in her life, but Hetty was the first to put her thoughts into the ether of cyberspace. And while I only casually watched her as millions of others did, her death does evoke a feeling of loss, partially due to the senseless waste that her death comprises, but also because of the great loss of potential in her humanitarian efforts, and as a parent of small children. We are led to sympathize with Charles and his sons as they face this tragedy, yes, especially as they remain in the eye of the press, which is part and parcel of public life.

Mass events seem to have an effect on the individual. I recall the Oklahoma City bombing, the TWA disaster, and the Heaven's Gate suicide. These events cause us to react with emotions as we consider the fragility of life and the sometime absurd actions of human beings, namely, the paparazzi who may have had a direct influence on the accident. Earlier in this century, our parents and older siblings can recall what they were doing when FDR and JFK died, when the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon were announced, and when Challenger exploded, killing seven astronauts, most notably teacher Christa McAuliffe. As a global society, we all carry on, engaged in the seemingly important trivia of our lives. But these events cause us to stop and take a pause to remember extremely extraordinary and dynamic people. We think of their social causes, the people they had direct influence on, and the causes of their deaths. This process is valuable, for without it, we would fail to take pause, turning to the ones we love to say "I love you" while we give them a tight embrace, as though we are anticipating their departure from us.

Love to all.

Please pray for Diana, her family, Britain, and the World.


I am compelled to add a paragraph to my earlier expressive outlet. Previously, I stated that the lives and deaths of celebrated individuals do have an influence on the lives of average people like you and me. The death of Diana does seem to touch me personally as I recall the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June of 1968. I was almost eight years old, and the announcement of his death came just two months after the death of Martin Luther King. Without realizing it, these events were drawing me out of my childhood mindset into a nascent political consciousness. I began to look into the death of RFK's brother John, and the martyr-myth that had already been built around John Kennedy had begun to become apparent to me, even at such a young age. These events instilled in me a budding interest in me in things political, and in the contributions of these icons in American political life. Indeed, those historical events may have had a direct influence on my becoming a Social Studies teacher (granted that other influences were also at work, namely, the survival of my parents through the Holocaust and the fact that my mother chose teaching as her profession). The value for which these figures stood: equality, justice, and brotherhood, all were communicated in their deaths. Interestingly, these values were conveyed by a press corps that was much less mercenary, and possibly, the ideals were being conveyed to a public that was less hungry for the gossip that now fuels the demand for images and content found in the tabloids.

My sister writes to me that her seventeen-year old son wonders why we should grieve for famous people. While grief comes at levels as individual as each of us, we must strive to teach our children what the loss of Diana and other famous people means for the world. In this case, there are a number of issues related to Diana that come to the fore: the issue of media harrassment and limits on freedom of the press, her contributions to understanding the AIDS crisis, land mines in Bosnia, and world hunger, as well as the issues related to the British monarchy. It is in the midst of this global striving to cope with her loss that decisions are made and lives are changed. Diana's death will have a ripple effect, and while the world suffers a great loss in her death, she will go on to touch so many in a positive way in spite of our shock and grief.

Thanks for reading.

George Cassutto

 ---- wrote:

Family and friends: your thoughts on the death of Princess Diana...could there have been a more tragic way for her to die??Even in death, she
> won't  be able to escape the press. Can you imagine the magazines and
> newspaper  sales in the next few days??? Will the paperazzi finally back off
> now? (I  doubt it)
> can you imagine the scene at her funeral? will her children be able to
> grieve  for their mother in private? I am in disbelief and grieving for her
> and her  children.
> did her friend Dodi Al-Fayed have any children? I am sorry for his
> family  also.
> My condolences to the English citizens. Diana did much for the
> disadvantaged  and the children of the world. (kind of reminds me of the outpouring
> of grief  after the death of Princess Grace of Monaco. her children did not fare
> well  after their mother died)
> i hope her two sons will be given lots of love and attention by their
> father  and other members of the Royal family. I can't sleep. I have been
> watching  CNN and ABC News for the last 2 hours.  Let me know how this  has
> affected  any of you, if at all.
> say a prayer tonight for the Princess, her children, her family and
> the  people of England.

> love. Hetty

George Cassutto
Teacher of Social Studies
North Hagerstown High School (MD)

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