Princess Diana died nine(!) years ago today. I first posted this over at Marilyn's Royal Forum. After I wrote it, I realized it would make a good blog post. I hope she doesn't mind that I reproduce it here:
It happened before I started my own royalty site, but I was volunteering at the time for another online royalty forum. I don't want to identify it, but at the time I was in charge of the newsletter. I tend to be workaholic about such things, but I intended to take some time off.
At the last moment I decided to quickly sign on and check the news, and another volunteer at the forum IM'd me and told me Diana had been in an accident. At that time it was thought that Princess Diana might perhaps be OK, but this other volunteer absolutely adored Diana, so you can imagine the state she was in. She asked me to join her in our normally sleepy chat room, which was being overwhelmed by visitors. I ended up spending the next eight hours there.
At that time I lived somewhere with poor TV reception and I couldn't get much news, so it was relayed to me in IMs by an employee of the company that sponsored the royalty forum, and that was all I had to go on. I remember hearing that she only had a broken leg and thinking she'd been lucky. But of course, that's not how it turned out.
I didn't get much sleep over the next few days because our forum was completely overwhelmed with many thousands of very upset people, and I also had to put together a memorial newsletter. I particularly remember two things (1) a visitor to the forum being upset with me because I didn't spend enough time in the chat room comforting people (she forgave me after I told her I was working hard on the newsletter); and (2) a visitor telling me that he was a "big strong man," a truck driver, and he didn't understand why he was so devastated by Diana's death (he seemed embarrassed).
Most of the people who visited our forum at that time were not royalty fans, but Diana was a true icon and truly loved. It's hard to describe what it was like to deal first-hand with that huge outpouring of emotion. It was strange and difficult and overwhelming.
So when I think of Diana's death, I don't think of the TV coverage, but of being mobbed by thousands of people who wanted to tell me how much they loved her. I don't believe the critics who say it was fake emotion or that she'll be easily forgotten. I saw for myself that she was loved and always will be by people who remember her.