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How She Touched Our World

Voices: Princess Diana was a symbol of glamour, but one with a very human side--a fact that made her accessible to millions.

September 01, 1997|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She didn't have platinum albums filled with songs that spoke to a generation. There was no body of work that embodied an era.

Rather, Princess Diana's life touched. People of a variety of ages say they felt a very personal kinship with her life, even when it became dented and tarnished by life's harsher realities.

Women around her age, especially, couldn't help comparing their life to hers, through her young marriage, children, in-law problems, self-esteem issues and messy divorce.

She was beautiful, a royal, in a most elite class, but the human side of Diana, the one that admitted to depression, bulimia and adultery, brought her thumping back down to earth. That she was beginning to emerge from this darker side gave many a gleaming ray of hope.

Upon her death come voices of people who identified with the princess, talking about the impact she made upon their lives:

Camilla Hemingway, Los Angeles, mother of two:

"I'm 35, and when she got married I was doing my freshman college year abroad in France. It was a real fairy tale, but she also seemed like a real down-to-earth person who worked with children. This was compelling, especially for a 19-year-old. She seemed like a very devoted mother, and throughout all the problems in her marriage, she really tried to be a great mom and not let her sons be drawn into the fray.

"When she started having problems in her marriage, I felt sorry for her. But I think she always handled herself in a very dignified manner."

"As a mother--I have a 4-year-old son and a 1-year-old son--it really gives me pause. You have so much to lose when you have children. I'm going to kiss my boys tonight and tell them how much I love them."

From the America OnLine UK News Message Board: "Diana will be truly missed by all. She was a true role model for young girls all around the world. I know despite all her mistakes, I, as a teenage girl, admired her because she owned up to her mistakes. Thank you to her for the positive influence she had on so many of us."

" . . . My life now feels empty and worthless. She had a worthy life, did much with her life, and deserved more than anybody to live, much more than myself."

"A life with all the possibilities came to a halt. We all must face our death, and lead a life of grace, hope for others, love of the family (the family of man), like Diana lived her life."

From bulletin boards at http://www.cnn.com: "Diana's death feels like a part of our generation is gone; from her marriage to Charles to her most recent relationship with Fayed I have followed her very sad story. She will be deeply missed. I can't imagine that this woman's image will no longer burn a trail through our daily lives. She was a courageous woman who struggled to beat the odds of bulimia, depression, media intrusion, and divorce. . . . She had dignity and self-respect."

"Princess Diana is the definition of class. She represented what every woman aspired to be: gentle, elegant, empowered and a true survivor of life's bitterness. She was a woman of the '90s and is a role model for living life with grace. . . . Her love and life gifts will live on in each of us who she touched."

"My heart sank from the loss of a great woman. Only since Jackie Kennedy has the death of a person I have never [had] the pleasure of meeting touched my life."

Kevin Garcia Holden, 30, Los Angeles, marketing manager for Spelling Entertainment: "I remember the wedding clearly, it's my most vivid childhood memory. I remember the whole idea that a fairy tale could actually come true. "In the early days she was mostly trying to prove herself, and she had a lot to prove with the pressures she had. She was trying to find her identity, and as she got older she really explored what was in her heart.

"I admired her because she was one of the first public and political officials to really become involved with people with AIDS. She added a human element to it, to something that was taboo. By her going to hospitals and actually touching people, it made people realize that this was not a taboo topic, that we should have humanity and compassion."

Patty Hambrecht, managing director of Christie's New York City: "This is someone who at some point in her life was going to turn all the media attention that was being foisted on her to do good work for others. I think she was delighted that she was able to raise so much money for two causes, that meant so much to her.

"She was wise enough to know that because of how she looked and who she was, people were attracted to her. I give her a great deal of credit that she used her celebrity in a way that benefited others."

Comments on the princess may be shared electronically on bulletin boards sponsored by The Times at http://www.latimes.com/diana.

Editorial Library researcher Jackie Cenacveira contributed to this story.

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