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Everywhere you look these days – the media is filled with Princess Diana stories — so hard to believe that it’s the twentieth anniversary of her death.
I remember that day well! My daughter, Dolly, was 8 at the time. Her friend Annabelle had slept over the night before and when I got downstairs in the morning, I found the two girls watching what seemed to be a news program on TV. Well that seemed strange. I asked the girls what they were watching and they immediately made eye-contact with each other and a funny look passed between them – – weird vibe going on there.
Then Dolly said to me — “It’s Princess Diana, Mom. We think she might be dead.” What ???
I found myself sitting on the couch – eyes glued to the TV screen. I sat there all day – just watching. I couldn’t believe it. Such a powerful life force – struck down – so young – so vibrant – too soon.
Everyone in my family knew that I had a thing about Princess Diana. Nothing could make me pick up a magazine faster than if Di’s face was on the cover. In fact, as I went up to bed at the end of the day, I noticed a magazine I had left on the stairs. It was the most recent issue of Vanity Fair – possibly even the September issue – you know how early those things come out. And there she was looking up at me from the cover. And now she was gone. She would never see September.
I had fallen for Diana right from the start – even before the wedding. But I was one that could not understand why she wanted to marry him – Charles. She seemed so sweet and natural and innocent. No – I did not stay up to watch the wedding — and I was not one of those that just loved the dress — In fact, I hated the dress.
But I did love everything else about Diana. I am not ordinarily one of those celebrity worshippers – but there was something different about Diana – I really felt connected to her. I thought she was the best thing that had ever happened to the Royals. And I loved her hats!
So it was truly amazing in May of 1986, when I was 8 months pregnant, that I had a close encounter with that magic.
It was really hot that day – and I was hugely pregnant. I carried that baby high – and all out front. Most days I felt like a ship in full sail. It had been hot in Vancouver all that spring and I was growing out of clothes that I could wear to work.
A friend had loaned me her wedding dress. I know – that always gets a laugh — but she and her husband had gotten married in Europe when he was working overseas and her family did not hold a wedding reception for them until after they returned to Canada. By that time she was VERY pregnant. Hence a very expensive, very beautiful, colourful, flowing, maternity-wedding dress. It was so amazing that I had picked that dress to wear on that fateful day.
My husband and I worked right at Granville and Hastings in Vancouver. We would park in a lower level of the brand-new Canada Place, down on the water front, and walk from there up the hill to the office.
As I got bigger and bigger that spring and my feet got more and more swollen – my climb up the hill got slower and slower. At this stage in my pregnancy – Kerry and I would split up after parking. He would hike up the ramp and head on to work – leaving me to make my own slow way. I would take the elevators from the lower parking level to the main lobby of the Pan Pacific Hotel. Then I could walk straight out the lobby doors at ground level — from there I had only one hill to climb up to Hastings Street.
On this particular day — I rode the elevator, as usual, up to the main lobby level, but when the elevator doors opened I found myself facing a huge crowd of women. They were all dressed up in their finest clothes and lots of them were wearing fancy hats and some of them held bouquets of flowers!
And they were all staring at me.
They were restrained by a thick gold rope barrier that followed the red carpet that led straight from my feet to the front door of the hotel.
To say I was in shock would be an understatement. I looked at the red carpet and I looked at the crowd and I tried to figure out how I could possible get myself out of this situation.
Get myself, somehow, over that gold cord and get into the crowd and away from all the eyes that were staring at me.
But at this stage in my pregnancy — there was no way I could climb over anything — and anyway – there was simply no more room behind the gold rope. The women were elbow to elbow in that lobby – no room for anyone else!
I looked down the length of the red carpet and saw a ‘Mountie’ — in his full red uniform — complete with hat – standing at the end. You know – a Royal Canadian Mounted Police. You certainly don’t see that every day in downtown Vancouver.
I thought about stepping back into the elevator and riding back down to the parking level — but the Mountie was signaling to me frantically – “Hurry” he was saying and beckoning – with his hand. “Hurry – they are coming”.
I was still in some kind of a trance and very embarrassed to have everyone staring at me. I could hear voices in the crowd saying – “who do you suppose she is?”
And like I said — I was HUGELY pregnant — (but wearing a beautiful diaphanous summer dress!!)
The Mountie by this time was really frantic. He continued to urge me down the red carpet. For some reason I was very reluctant to step on that red carpet — but the Mountie was signalling that it was OK.
So I walked towards him and believe me – it was not a fast walk – once again- hugely pregnant – swollen feet – shuffling really – in my pretty leather flip flops. I hadn’t been able to get my feet into any of my shoes for quite a while now.
And the Mountie kept hissing — “Hurry – hurry – they are coming!!!!”.
When I got next to him, he just pulled me in beside him and told me to “Stand there.” As I looked back down the red carpet — where I had just walked moments before – the elevator doors opened — and there stood Charles and Diana.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was even more charismatic and beautiful in person than I could ever have imagined.
And she was heading my way !!!!!
Then they walked down the red carpet (my red carpet) – right past the Mountie and then right in front of me. I mean literally inches in front of me. They both looked at me and smiled – Charles nodded his head and maybe he thought – “I wonder who she is? And why is she with that Mountie?”
Then they were gone out the door — and as I found out later – on their way to attend the opening ceremonies for Expo 86. What an incredible stroke of luck for me. I couldn’t have timed that better if I had known.
The only bad part in my mind, was the fact that Charles was walking on my side of the red carpet. So I was closer to him than to her. (But still — only inches away from Diana !!!!)
After they were gone, I headed on up the hill to work. When I got there – everyone was so relieved – they had been ready to send out a search party for me. When they asked what had kept me so long I just told them I had stopped to see Chuck and Di!!!!
I am still wondering about the poor security guy who had neglected to post someone in the parking levels of the hotel or to shut off access to that route. I guess things were a little more relaxed in those days — and anyway it was just an embarrassed pregnant woman who crashed the party!
We miss you Diana.