The year was 1997, the year I was to marry. My soon-to-be husband had taken a job in New England, and on the weekends I would travel by Amtrak from Baltimore to Stamford, Connecticut, where my fiancé (now husband) would pick me up at the station.
After eating dinner, we stopped at a convenience store to pick up some items for the morning. In the parking lot, the car radio gave us the news. “Princess Diana has been injured in a car crash.” At that time, we didn’t know the severity of the situation, but we went back to my husband’s place and put the television on. I felt ill, as if the accident had happened to someone I knew personally.
We didn’t turn off the television all night.
In the morning, after tossing and turning, we learned she had died.
The people of Britain were distraught. Their princess had passed away, her beaming smile no longer to grace the covers of magazines, newspapers, and televisions, and though she was no longer married to Prince Charles and was dating Dodi Fayed, she was still “their” princess.
Diana was not much older than I am. In 1981, I watched the Royal Wedding on television, glued to witnessing history unfold. She penetrated through to other countries, and we all adopted her as a shining star. Part rebellious and independent combined with an appealing vulnerability, she was a beacon of light, humble and likeable, and she cast an air of sophistication upon the British throne. She was a role model and set an example for us all through her philanthropic and charity work. And, as an added plus, she had a fabulous sense of style. As someone always enamored with fashion, she gave me even more reason to follow her. However, it didn’t matter if she was wearing a million dollar necklace or holding the hand of a child dying of AIDS; she always gave us a reason to feel akin to her. In fact, only weeks after she passed away, I had my hair cut like hers for my wedding. It has always been my husband’s favorite way that I’ve styled my hair.
Many women my age who watched her grow up and mature admired Diana. And what’s more, we realized she was one of us. She had her own struggles with bulimia, depression, feeling unloved, and feeling unwanted. But she also had that glorious feeling of being loved by many, of being an influence to young women, of being a loving mother, sister, daughter, and friend, and of being a comfort to those in need.
It’s been 19 years since her passing, and yet it feels like it happened just yesterday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know she smiled that fantastic smile from up above knowing that her grandson, little Prince George, and her granddaughter, Princess Charlotte, were now in the world.