Oprah's interview with John F. Kennedy Jr. was the 11th season premiere of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and it was big news. John had just delivered a speech introducing his uncle Sen. Ted Kennedy at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. At the same time, the gossip pages were ablaze with John's recently announced engagement to publicist Carolyn Bessette. "It was a very exciting day because John F. Kennedy Jr. didn't sit down and talk to anybody," Oprah said when she reflected on the interview 14 years later. "We'd been on the air for 10 years and had been trying to get him to talk, and only I think because he was releasing his magazine, George, was he willing to do it. It was still a huge, huge, huge coup for all of my team to talk him into saying yes."
Oprah said John struck her as timeless and statuesque. "He has such wonderful presence," she said. "He feels calm. Even though I know that he was nervous, he feels in control."
Look back at Oprah's 1996 interview with John
On July 16, 1999, John; his wife, Carolyn; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, boarded a small airplane piloted by John. They were set to fly from New Jersey to the Kennedy family home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, for a wedding.
Hours later, news broke that their light aircraft had gone missing and rescuers were on the scene. Almost a week later, the plane's wreckage was found. There were no survivors.
Oprah says she's thought often about the deaths of John, Carolyn and Lauren. "I know that all death is here to teach us about life," she says. "It made me think about ... how to live more presently in the now."
Oprah reflects on her interview with America's prince of Camelot