With the approach of the first anniversary of the July 16 air tragedy that claimed the lives of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister Lauren Bessette, friends who had kept silent about the married couple have spoken out to PEOPLE, to PEOPLE, to set straight what they consider a wildly distorted picture of the union which has developed. “It was a tumultuous marriage, and they loved each other very much,” John Perry Barlow, 52, a longtime pal of Kennedy’s, told the magazine. “John . . . worshipped the ground she walked on. She was a creature with a lot of ‘weather,’ and you had to be ready to ride the storm. John liked it that way.” In turn, “She was totally crazy about John,” says Joe McKenna, a fashion stylist who knew Carolyn since 1993. Friends dismiss several rumors as untrue, such as that Carolyn was hooked on anti-depressants and John was unfaithful. Similarly, they pooh-pooh tabloid stories that the couple considered divorce, though they did confirm that John slept in a hotel, apart from Carolyn (but alone), the night before the tragic air journey. He had forgotten his house keys.
* As for the survivors: John and Carolyn’s beloved dog, Friday, now lives in Portugal with Jackie Onassis’s longtime butler, Efigenio Pinheiro, and their black cat Ruby resides with friends in Manhattan. Lisa Bessette, 35, Lauren’s twin, remains enrolled in an art history doctoral program at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. Carolyn and Lauren’s parents are “doing as well as can be expected,” the Reverend Jeffrey Walker, a family friend, tells PEOPLE. Family lawyer Constantine Ralli, meanwhile, dismisses rumors of a Kennedy settlement with the family over any possible negligence on the part of John Jr. that may have caused last summer’s crash.