One thousand copies of “True Compass,” Ted Kennedy’s” $1,000.00 book, complete with digital signature will soon be for sale. For your money you get a leather cover and Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy’s wisdom and memories as written in collaboration with Ron Powers, author of “Flags of Our Fathers.” I’m guessing the leather-bound copy to be sold online, will not contain memories of Chappaquiddick and Mary Jo Kopechne in the book. Update: Senator Ted Kennedy died on August 25, 2009 at age 77 at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer in May 2008.
Hardback copies for the unwashed masses, like you and me, will be released at $35.00 per book on October 6th, 2009. The initial print of the hardback will be 1-1/2 million copies.
Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), now in treatment for brain cancer, is the second most senior member of the Senate after Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia (D).
About remembering Mary Jo Kopechne, which the Senator will not do, but I will. Her 69th birthday would have been July 18th, had the Senator pulled her out of the car that he drove into the Chappaquiddick, or even had he expediently brought help for her rescue to the scene. Her death occurred on July 20th 1969. She was 28 at the time. Two days later her funeral was held in Pennsylvania and she was buried there. Ms. Kopechne’s body was whisked off the island and out of Massachusetts for a very quick burial.
On a humid Friday in July of 1969, as his plane took off from Boston bound for Martha’s Vineyard, Senator Edward M. Kennedy seemed locked in a sure, unstoppable ascent to the White House.
His longtime chauffeur Jack Crimmins had brought Kennedy’s car, a black Oldsmobile, to the Vineyard on the ferry. He had also brought a supply of liquor for the weekend: vodka, Scotch, rum, a couple of cases of beer.
Now, after a stop for fried clams, the two men headed for Chappaquiddick, a smaller, sparsely populated island separated from Edgartown by a narrow inlet. They made the quick crossing on a simple, barge-like ferry and continued on their way, through a landscape of sandy marsh and dense scrub pine and oak.
Kennedy wanted a swim before his race. He changed clothes at the gray-shingled cottage where the party would be held that night. Then Crimmins drove him to East Beach: a half mile back toward the ferry, slowing at the sharp, L-shaped curve, then a deliberate right turn onto sandy Dike Road.
A mile down the dirt road, the woods fell away, and the narrow, wooden Dike Bridge came into view.
Crimmins steered carefully across the one-lane span, above the swirling tidal flow of an inlet known as Poucha Pond. At the beach, he waited in the torpid afternoon as Kennedy dove below the crashing surf.
The six young women who gathered that weekend on the Vineyard — sisters Nance and Maryellen Lyons, Rosemary “Cricket” Keough, Mary Jo Kopechne, Esther Newberg, and Susan Tannenbaum — had come together several times already to reminisce about their days in the campaign’s “boiler room.” The Kennedys had hosted one such affair at Hyannis Port the previous summer.
The women had worked in the buzzing nerve center of the campaign, housed in a windowless room for secrecy. Each was responsible for courting and tracking delegates in several states.
Mary Jo Kopechne had known Robert Kennedy well, once staying up all night at his Virginia home to type a landmark speech on Vietnam. After he was killed, Kopechne told a former teacher she felt unable to return to Capitol Hill “because it will never be the same again.”
Being with friends who felt the same way was comforting, and the “boiler room girls” began their Vineyard weekend in good spirits. Friday morning, they swam at a beach on Chappaquiddick. Then they took a chartered boat to watch the sailing races.
Back at the cottage after the regatta, Kennedy soaked in the bathtub to sooth his aching back while Gargan [a cousin] baked frozen hors d’oeuvres and fired up the grill in the fading light outside.
The mood was easygoing. Kennedy asked Crimmins to mix him a rum and Coke and teased his chauffeur about the level in the bottle, jokingly demanding, “Who’s been drinking all the rum?”
It was, on the surface, a Camelot-style gathering, of older married men and younger, unmarried women — but in an oddly modest, remote setting, with women who were unusually skilled and ambitious.
Guests drifted from the cramped cottage to the mosquito-ridden front yard. Stories were told; Bobby Kennedy was a presence. Some people danced. Everyone present would later insist that the drinking was moderate. Analysis of Kopechne’s blood would show her alcohol level was .09 percent — perhaps the equivalent of three to five drinks.
According to Crimmins, it was 11:15 p.m. when Kennedy asked for the car keys. The senator said he was tired and wanted to return to his hotel on the last ferry. He said he would drive Kopechne back to Edgartown, too, because she’d had too much sun and wasn’t feeling well.
His request was unusual. The senator rarely drove himself anywhere, in Washington or Massachusetts. And his departure left behind one car for 10 people, most of them planning to return that night to rooms in Edgartown.
But the pair’s departure caused hardly a ripple. Kopechne told no one she was ill, or that she was leaving, her friends said. She left behind her purse and the key to her hotel room.
The next thing Kennedy knew was that he was going to die.
Kennedy Car in Chappaquiddick
He would recall being swept away by the tide, calling out Kopechne’s name as he drifted. He said he recovered his footing and waded back to the car through waist-deep water, guided by the glow of the headlights underwater.
He dove below the surface, trying to get to Kopechne. He failed, and tried again, seven or eight times in all. By then he was exhausted, barely able to hold his breath.
Finally, he let himself float away. He crawled onto shore and lay there, coughing and gasping. Then he staggered up the bank and started back up Dike Road, “walking, trotting, jogging, stumbling, as fast as I possibly could.”
Disturbing sequence of decisions.
It would have been a dark walk, dogged by panic and slowed by powdery sand. There was a crescent moon, but trees cocooned the road. He passed houses but did not stop for help, later saying that he saw no lights.
Back at the cottage, spent and soaking wet, Kennedy collapsed in the car parked outside. Then he called Gargan and Markham, both lawyers, to help him.
There was no phone in the cottage, but there were houses nearby and a volunteer fire station with an alarm. The three men never paused, though, as they raced to the pond.
Later, in court, Gargan tried to explain why.
“I felt there was only one thing to do and that was to get into the car and as quickly as possible, because I knew if I did not there wasn’t a chance in the world of saving Mary Jo,” he said.
At the bridge, Gargan and Markham said, they stripped off their clothes and dove in, but the current kept them from Kopechne. “When we failed in that . . . I didn’t think that there was anything more that could be done,” Gargan said.
As they headed back up Dike Road — passing the same houses but again not stopping — Kennedy broke down, according to his friends.
“He was sobbing,” Markham said. “He said, ‘This couldn’t have happened.’ “
Kennedy’s future loomed, suddenly uncertain. “What am I going to do, what can I do?” Kennedy asked.
It had been two hours since the accident. Gargan drove to the ferry landing — steps from a working payphone. The night was still, the narrow inlet calm as glass.
Maybe, he thought, Kopechne had escaped. Maybe she was back at the cottage. Meanwhile, Gargan and Markham were insisting he report the accident.
When the senator stood and gave his orders, they were simple and direct: “You take care of the girls; I will take care of the accident.”
But Kennedy went back to his room. He did not go to police.
On Saturday morning, the cleanup began.
Kennedy began making phone calls to lawyers. Two fishermen, meanwhile, had spotted the car in the pond.
By the time the senator made it to the police station, about 10 a.m., Kopechne’s body had already been recovered.
Edgartown Police Chief Dominick Arena returned from the bridge to his office to find Kennedy there making phone calls.
What would you like for me to do?” the senator asked then. “We must do what is right or we will both be criticized for it.”
Arena asked for a statement….He left out Kopechne’s last name because he could not spell it. And he brushed aside the 10-hour delay in reporting the crash.
“When I fully realized what had happened this morning,” he wrote, “I immediately contacted the police.”
In spite of the gaps, Arena asked no questions. It was too late to determine how much Kennedy had been drinking. By midday, Kennedy was on his way to the airport.
More confounding, a sheriff’s deputy named Huck Look had contradicted Kennedy.
Coming home that night through the Dike Road intersection, Look said, he had seen a car like Kennedy’s, with a man and woman inside and a similar plate number, at 12:45 a.m. – an hour and a half after Kennedy said the accident happened and 45 minutes after the last scheduled ferry.
The medical examiner declared Kopechne’s cause of death was drowning and saw no need for an autopsy. The district attorney kept his distance. The police chief prepared the only charge he believed he could make: leaving the scene of an accident, a misdemeanor punishable by two months in prison.
Kennedy pleaded “guilty,” and then:
His lawyer asked that his sentence be suspended. Judge James Boyle consented.
“It is my understanding that he has already been, and will continue to be, punished far beyond anything this court can impose,” said Boyle.
The hearing lasted less than 10 minutes. Afterward, the police chief told reporters his investigation was closed.
In January , the Chappaquiddick inquest was held on Martha’s Vineyard. Kennedy’s lawyers had prevailed, and the four days of testimony were closed to the public and press, the transcript locked away until a later date.
Within days of its decision, Judge Boyle released the 764-page inquest transcript — including his own stunning conclusion that Kennedy’s negligence had contributed to Kopechne’s death.
Based on testimony at the inquest, Boyle concluded that Kennedy had lied; he “did not intend to drive to the ferry slip and his turn onto Dike Road was intentional.”
Furthermore, the judge wrote, because the bridge was a hazard to be crossed with caution, Kennedy “would at least be negligent and, possibly, reckless” when he approached it, as he testified, at 20 miles per hour.
But under the odd, archaic rules of the inquest, Judge Boyle was not required to act on his findings, released just days before he retired. The district attorney made no move to action either.
The Massachusetts voters were untroubled. They reelected him a few months later over his poorly funded Republican rival, Josiah Spaulding, by almost 500,000 votes.
Read the entire article and see a video of the bridge, the car, etc. – even the car under water, and hear those close to the Kennedy’s concerned that Ted would never be president – at Boston.com.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe True Compass, Ted Kennedy’s $1000 book will point a true compass in the direction of Kopechne. Maybe he will reminisce about Kopechne and maybe even about Mary Jo’s 69th birthday.