Remembering Diana - Lessons Learned from the Worst Tragedy In Human History
By Henna Armbruster and JohnnyCat
October 28, 1999
Billions of people and magazine publishers alike mourn as today marks possibly the most tragic anniversary in recorded human history. It was nearly two years and two months ago on this day that Diana, Princess of Wales, along with millionaire sugar daddy Dodi Fayed and their innebriated chauffer, Biff, bravely died in a car crash shortly after midnight on Sunday, August 31, 1997. The accident that ripped Princess Diana from our hearts and gave the cable news networks a 43% ratings boost occurred in a tunnel along the Seine river at the Pont de l'Alma in Paris. Diana, the world's most photographed woman and beloved tramp wife of the heir to the British throne, was rushed to the intensive care unit of the Salpetriere hospital in eastern Paris, where even in her comatose state she managed to express distaste for the lighting, the food, the linens, and the wine. Finally, the Princess gave up her brave fight. Five hours after the crash, French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement reported that doctors had failed to save her life, but had preserved many of her vital organs in jars for later auction. Some mourners take comfort today in knowing that the Princess died as she lived, in front of the cameras and on vacation, while others contend that it was her life in front of the cameras, reckless vacationing, and to a lesser extent her chauffeur's drunken driving that led to her untimely yet highly profitable demise.
Life of a Fairy Tale Princess: A look back.
Princess Diana was born Eustis Bertha Buttes on April 17, 1961, to the wealthy English landowner C. P. Buttes and an unnamed Russian woodsgirl. It was clear very early on that little Eustis had special powers, as she could move objects with her hands, bend bars of solid metal into lewd sculptures and spin straw into gold. Eustis made her father very happy and liked her life in the country. But then one day, as Eustis was walking through Groveshire forest on her way to Manchester Village to trade butter for guns, she met a friendly, amusing leprechaun sprite named Prince Charles of Wales. The leprechaun sprite was intrigued by the girl's powers and striking beauty, and he cast a powerful spell on her, causing her fall suddenly and madly in love with him. However, the seventh seal had yet to be opened under the second full moon in the presence of a Faerie witness, making the leprechaun sprite's spell incomplete. Eustis Birtha Buttes, now Lady Diana under the spell of the evil sprite, bore two children for him; one a handsome, smart, athletic prince named William, and the other an ugly, dumb, runt stable boy named Harry.
Gradually the sprite's love spell wore off, and Lady Diana took to wandering the English countryside looking for real, true love. Not finding it with wealthy gentleman after wealthy gentleman and expensive gift after expensive gift, Lady Diana turned to high-profile charity work to express her love, giving unselfishly of her time to help the less fortunate, the less attractive, by touching them and smiling for the cameras. The lonely Princess learned to give of herself wholly and completely; legends circulated that of the 35 days a year she did not spend on vacation, nearly half were filled with charity events and stately galas.
Word of the Princess's charity work spread throughout the land, and eventually reached the court of Dodi Al Fayad, a wealthy widower looking for a new wife and breeding tool. He set off on a magical quest to meet the Princess, slaying dragons, elves, warlocks and Eskimos along the way. When he reached Lady Diana's tower on London Shire, the Princess let down her flowing blond hair and it touched the ground. Dodi Al Fayad took hold of her beautiful hair and arm over arm he climbed up to her, ignoring her screams of pain and the tower's elevator, fixed on his goal of meeting the beautiful, generous Princess.
As he reached the top, their eyes met, and for the first time, Lady Diana knew she had found a man with ample enough resources to support her high-maintenance lifestyle and unceasing desire to explore the unknown boundaries of vacation. There would be no more empty charity work and vacuous media attention for the Lady Diana, she thought. From then on it would be sipping exotic margaritas on private beaches, exploring far-off five-star hotels, and having her toes sucked by bronzed towel boys.
Together, the two lovers explored every form of vacation known to human kind, pushing the boundaries of what could be considered vacation and breaking many of society's long-standing vacationing taboos.
The two were arranged to be married on September 1st of 1997, but sadly, the fates intervened. Like chocolate and peanut butter, the combination of drinking and driving proved irresistible yet deadly on the night of August 31, 1997. On that night, the Faerie Queen called both Lady Diana and Dodi Al Fayad to the great vacation beyond, their earthly love committed to eternity on a series of porcelain collector's plates and People Magazine covers.
The Aftermath: What about the children?
The loss of our fairy tale Princess touched each one of us in a different way, in a different place, with a different pressure. Two years and two months after the fact, how are we, as a species, coping with this loss and moving on?
According to the editors of several British and American tabloids, Princess Diana contacted them as she was on her death bed, and with her last moments of breath she told each one of her dying wish that her sons be followed and photographed as much as possible, so that they may know the perfect life she once did. The London Tattler, which this month featured a handsome Prince William on its cover under a headline alluding to his rumored gay sex orgies, says it's doing its best to live up to the Princess's legacy. "She called me up the night she died and told me it was her last wish to keep her family in the tabloids," says Tattler editor Rufus Trilbold, "so it's the least we can do to honor her memory. It's what she would have wanted."
Popular American toilet reading People Magazine also believes it is important that we not forget this tragedy, and that we force Princess Diana's children to live the storybook life we we wanted for her. Consequently there have been more than thirty People Magazine covers over the last two years and two months that either featured Diana or her attractive son William in some sort of compromising position. "Diana was the happiest, most beautiful woman alive," said People columnist Rebecca Hubert, "and even dead, she's sold more magazines than Publisher's Clearinghouse."
Child psychologist Tammy Weerman contends that constant media attention is a good thing for the children. "These boys, especially William, need to grow up knowing that they're better and more interesting than everyone else," she said. "And if their images, exploits, and personal tragedies sell magazines, then that's good for the economy."
While many media organizations charge that other media organizations are forcing Prince William and Stable Boy Harry to live in a zoo with their every move on public display, Weerman takes a different view. "Who wouldn't want to live in a zoo?" she challenges. "Children love zoos, and they're good for the economy."
Where Do We Go From Here: Lessons learned from this tragedy.
As I sit here, two years and two months after the death of the my Princess, bound to my rusty wheelchair, flipping through the yellowing, brittle pages of old newspapers and magazines, dressing and undressing my Diana dolls with machine-like rhythm, I am overwhelmingly sad and a little bit hungry.
We feel like we all knew her; after all, we watched her grow up through grainy telephoto lenses. We all attended her wedding in our living room. We all attended her funeral in our downstairs bathroom. We all watched as an innocent 19-year-old "virgin" shyly became a hopeful wife, a loving mother, a career vacationer. She was sweet, witty and had a nose that could open bottles. She had charisma, and was so full of spunk it was often photographed dripping down her legs. We were surprised and disappointed to learn about her impotent husband and resulting marital problems. We empathized with her over her in-law problems, her cocaine addiction, her irritable bowel syndrome, her boycott against food, her schizophrenia, and her belief that her children were alien robots. We identified with Di, her longing to garner media attention and fame, to acquire expensive status symbols. To juggle love, career, family, drugs, vacationing, whoring. To carve out some balance and make the world pay. To make her life make a difference in her own life and the life of herself.
Of course, she made mistakes. She was only human, and we had the photographic evidence of her bodily functions to prove it. But her mistakes were those that most lonely, unsatisfied women could relate to. We all grew up hearing the fairy tale of the handsome prince who marries a beautiful princess, breeds her, and they live happily ever after. We were just as shocked as she was when we learned that it was all a set-up, the prince was really a toad, that the second child was a runt. How could we not empathize with her?
She was warm, gooey, nutty and sinful, like an expensive candy bar. She was classy and graceful, like a ballerina, but pretentious, yummy and informative, like an edible newspaper. She had a great sense of humor and a nose that you could hang your coat on. She was a beautiful, delicate flower, inside and out, upside and down, around the side and through the middle and out the back again. She wasn't afraid to be vulnerable, to be photographed in the nude. She dared to go barefoot without embarrassment.
She could have lived like a princess, aloof in her castle, never doing anything special for anyone. But instead, she chose to bring attention to herself by standing in front of significant world causes, in a way that cut through the sternum and went straight to the heart. She poked at lepers with tongs, hugged people with AIDS through protective plexiglass, and measured cancer patients for coffins. She donated thousands of her own dollars for research and development of deadlier, more effective land mines. And just watching her on the news, looking at her vacant, emaciated facial expressions and listening to her soft, sensitive, prepared speech, you knew she meant whatever her writers and publicists had her saying. She became an amazingly articulate, classy, sophisticated woman, a champion of causes, who still found time to puke after meals.
What saddens me most is that she was just beginning. I grieve for her, I grieve for her sons, William in particular as he's a cutie, and I grieve for the world. I feel bad that she will not be here to share in my life anymore, to watch over me throughout my day and keep me safe at night, to live in the wall behind my bed and to sing prayers to my cat Johnny.
It is time to take responsibility. We must stand up and fight for those who dare to have heartpeople who love money and vacation and dresses and who dare to show it. Thank them, support them, praise them, watch them; give them water regularly and lots of sunshine, while allowing them none of the privacy they desire.
The media is a powerful tool. But like all powerful tools, it must be used appropriately, by men with strong hands and powerful arms, in a judicious, responsible way, to build my garage.
Reporters are already reporting that reporters are once again in high gear, stalking glamorous figures for their daily bread. It is now as if she never died, as if she still lives in my walls and gnaws her way into my cereal boxes, leaving trails of feces on the counter. Many blame her death on drunk driving. But why would her chauffeur have been drinking in the first place if not for the paparazzi chasing their car?
It is time for things to change. Just as Diana struggled to make her life make a difference, we must fight to see that her death does as well. It is important that her legacy lives on, that through time she stays in our thoughts and conversations and magazine covers, so that she may never rest and never be forgotten.
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