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Kennedy haunted by Chappaquiddick

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said in a new book that he was not romantically involved with young Mary Jo Kopechne and that he never escaped the despair he felt after she died in the 1969 car crash that has been seared into the national consciousness as “Chappaquiddick.”

He acknowledged that he enjoyed women and drink – sometimes too much so – but said reports of wild Kennedy excesses were exaggerated. He said he always has accepted the conclusion that a lone assassin killed his brother John and that Kennedy family members had worried about the emotional health of his brother Robert following John’s death in Dallas in 1963. He said it “veered close to being a tragedy within a tragedy.”

Yet it was the specter of Chappaquiddick that Edward Kennedy, the youngest brother, never could shake.

“That night on Chappaquiddick Island ended in a horrible tragedy that haunts me every day of my life,” Kennedy wrote in a memoir, “True Compass,” to be published posthumously on Sept. 14. The Massachusetts senator died last week at 77 following a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

Kennedy said his Catholic faith helped sustain him as he wrestled with guilt over the events of July 18, 1969, when he drove a car off a bridge into a pond on the tiny island. His own anguish, he said, paled in comparison with the suffering endured by Kopechne’s family.

“Atonement is a process that never ends,” he wrote.

The book offers an intimate look at the personal failings, tragedies and triumphs of the famed Kennedy family’s last surviving brother. He said he agreed that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he gunned down John F. Kennedy.

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