Lonely Planet Writer

A piece of New England has died

Lighthouse on Cape Ann, Massachusetts

The last of the Kennedies is gone. And with it, a piece of America has disappeared into the past.

Before the Bushes and Clintons, there was America's true First Family. JFK and Jackie may have held court at Camelot, but they will forever be associated with New England. To this day, John Kennedy's Mayor Quimbyintonation evokes memories of a nation united in purpose and hope. With yesterday's death of Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the last human links to those memories is being mourned in Hyannisport.

I was never a part of 1960s America. And as an immigrant child in the USA, the nation's history was an ever unfolding mystery to me. Although I studied US history in high school, it wasn't until I went to university in Massachusetts that the impact of America's past hit me. Boston's Freedom Trail, Thoreau's Walden Pond, the battlegrounds of the Revolutionary War...even the wharves described by Melville and the Puritan stoicism of construction workers - it all spoke directly to the American identity. Every day, I was confronted by a historical personality that seemed alien to me but was accepted as part of a collective national unconsciousness.

Sure, the USA is but a young nation. Europeans and Asians might scoff at the notion that a scant four centuries can provide any sort of weight to one's history. But for proud, brash America, New England is the land of nostalgia. It's where Americans can look back to the pioneering origins of the country and to the fiery moments in which its character was forged. In the fading days of a New England autumn, it's possible to imagine that the USA is older and wiser than you think.

So many of my memories are now American memories. I wasn't there when John Kennedy extolled us to 'ask what you can do for your country' and 'what we can do together for the freedom of man.' But I feel his words profoundly. I look back to an America charged with hope and manifest destiny, and I wonder where on its journey it is today.

Goodbye, Ted Kennedy. To me, your family symbolized an America reaching for the stars. Now that Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and your brothers are gone for good, where will the nation 'turn its lonely eyes'?