Anderson Cooper’s brother, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, committed suicide over twenty years ago. Now–in a very rare interview–Cooper talks about Carter’s death with their mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.
According to People Magazine, it was 1988 when Carter Vanderbilt Cooper–just 23 years old, and a recent Princeton graduate–committed suicide. He leapt from the 14th floor–off the terrace of his family’s penthouse apartment in New York City. Anderson was 21 at the time of his brother’s death.
Gloria Vanderbilt is now 87 years old. She recalls the day–sharing details with her surviving son with vivid clarity.
“When he went … I thought he was going to come back, but he didn’t,” Vanderbilt explains. “He let go, and there was a moment when I thought I was going to jump over after him.”
It was son Anderson Cooper who gave her a reason to continue living.
“I thought of you and it stopped me from [jumping],” Vanderbilt tells Anderson, who is on the verge of tears.
Gloria Vanderbilt wrote a book about her son’s suicide. Published in 1997, it’s called A Mother’s Story. Within its pages she talks of how she believes an allergy to medication was behind her’s son’s fatal jump–but of course that has never been proven, and is probably not the reason behind the suicide.
Anderson Cooper chooses to recall his brother’s suicides as one of the many reasons his mother fascinates him. Her immense strength in light of many losses in her lifetime has made her what he calls a survivor.
“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.”
Anderson Cooper notes, too, that the losses and subsequent survivor’s strength his mom gained never turned her off to people or to living.
“It hasn’t made you tough,” he says. “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.”
What a blessing that Anderson Cooper could have this kind of conversation with his aging mother. Hopefully the real blessing will come in the form of others who draw strength from it. Perhaps there will be a sense of healing for some as a result of their poignant words.
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