In 1997, my husband and I had the best jobs of our lives. He was a registered contractor renovating Art Deco buildings on South Miami Beach (SoBe) and I worked for a global business at Miami International Airport in the former Pan Am building. I was the assistant and do-it-all for the president.

My husband was overseeing a project on a hotel near the mansion of Giovanni Versace, although my husband wouldn’t know that the man walking on Ocean Drive to get his morning papers was one of the top fashion designers in the world. As a friend of Eric Clapton, Princess Diana, Madonna, Elton John, Tupac Shakur and many other celebrities, Versace was one of the first designers to link fashion to the music world.

As Versace climbed the steps to his luxurious home, he was shot point blank by a man later identified as Andrew Cunanan, a spree killer who had earlier murdered four other men, including a real estate developer. Versace was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead.

In the meantime, there was a virtual lockdown on SoBe and no one was allowed to leave the vicinity. My husband called me to say he might be home late because he didn’t know what would happen. A couple hours after that, the local news was announcing that the police believed Cunanan was at the airport and planning to leave Florida. Miami International Airport was immediately overrun by investigators. It must have been the largest manhunt in the history of Miami. My company was also besieged by reporters. It was frontpage news everywhere.

A week later, my husband called me to say SoBe was on lockdown again because the police got a tip that Cunanan was holed up in a nearby houseboat. When a passel of officers with raised guns boarded the boat, they discovered that the manhunt was ended – Cunanan had committed suicide.

Versace’s ashes were returned to his family’s estate and buried in a cemetery near Lake Como. His funeral at Milan Cathedral drew over 2,000 mourners, including Elton John and Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in a car accident a month later.

Also in 1997, there was a cargo jet that was overloaded and immediately went down after take-off, narrowly missing my company’s parking lot. Five people died in the crash. And again, I was the one to speak to reporters who besieged my company for news.

When I left rural Connecticut at a young age, my desire was to live an adventurous life. I think I achieved that goal, probably in 1997 alone.

Connecticut Media Group