It’s been more than two decades since Anderson Cooper’s brother Carter Vanderbilt Cooper flung himself from the 14th-floor terrace of his family’s NYC penthouse apartment.
In a rare interview, Anderson, 44, sat down with his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, and recalls that tragic day in 1988 when Carter, then 23, took his own life.
“When he went I thought he was going to come back, but he didn’t,” Vanderbilt, 87, remembers in the one-on-one conversation that airs Monday on Anderson’s syndicated talk show. “He let go, and there was a moment when I thought I was going to jump over after him.”
But the former fashion designer says Anderson, who was 21 at the time, gave her a reason to continue living.
“I thought of you and it stopped me from [jumping],” Vanderbilt tells her son, whose eyes brim with tears.
Although it is rare to hear Anderson or his mom speak publicly about their family tragedy, Vanderbilt wrote a book in 1997 called A Mother’s Story, in which she discusses the medicine allergy she believes caused her son to make the spontaneous decision to kill himself.
“The fatal loss stripped me bare,” Vanderbilt says in the book of losing Carter, a seemingly confident Princeton graduate.
Although Vanderbilt tells Anderson, “You never get over it, but you learn to live with it,” the talk show host and CNN correspondent uses the heartbreaking experience as just one more reason to see his mom as an inspiration.
“You have survived so many things,” Anderson says. “This custody battle when you were 10 years old, the loss of your father when you were an infant, the loss of Carter, of my dad, your husband and so many others.”
“It hasn’t made you tough,” he continues. “It hasn’t hardened you. You’re still open to experience and open to new loss and open to new heartbreak and to new love.”
The entire show can be viewed at AndersonCooper.com.