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Edward Kennedy's sons say his memoir held surprises

September 14, 2009 | 12:37 pm

A memoir written by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy hit bookstores this morning. And to promote it, his eldest sons hit the morning talk shows.

The book, "True Compass," reveals details about the senator's life that even they didn't know, his sons told NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America." Among the revelations were confessions about Edward Kennedy's failed marriage, his pain over the deaths of his three brothers, and his role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick, Mass.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy told NBC's Matt Lauer that the incident at Chappaquiddick motivated his father to work hard his entire life to atone for his mistakes.

“I think he spent his life trying to work to make up for his failings,” Patrick Kennedy said.

In 1969, Edward Kennedy drove off a bridge into a pond at Chappaquiddick, a small island off Martha's Vineyard. The young senator swam to safety and left his passenger, Kopechne, in the car. Kopechne, a young campaign worker, died there. 

In his memoir, Kennedy wrote that his actions that night were inexcusable.

"I made terrible decisions," he wrote. "Atonement is a process that never ends."

Kennedy's sons said the late senator, who died last month, rarely revealed his emotions to his family. But in "True Compass," he opened up about how he dealt with the assassinations of his brothers John and Robert in the 1960s.

Of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination at a hotel in Los Angeles, the late senator wrote, “My mind went black."

"Life and politics went on," he wrote. "But not in the same way. Not for me. I was shaken to my core.”

The senator said that he was traumatized by the assassinations, and was startled by sudden noises -- such as fireworks or rifle volleys at military funerals -- for the rest of his life.

-- Kate Linthicum

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