Not a day goes by that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper doesn’t think of the tragic day in 1988 when his brother, Carter jumped from the terrace of their mother, Gloria Vanderbilt’s penthouse.
On the warm summer evening of July 22, 1988, 23-year-old Carter took a fatal leap from the 14th-floor penthouse in Manhattan.
“He was so much smarter than me, he had gone to Princeton, he was working at American Heritage as a book editor, and it was so inconceivable to me,” Anderson told Howard Stern in 2014.
Carter started seeing a therapist for depression a month before and had even talked about writing a book.
No alcohol or drugs were found in his system, and they never understood why he jumped, although Anderson believed that it in no way reflected on their fashion designer mother, Gloria.
“I think he had this impulse that he could not contain, she was just there,” Anderson said. “He had woken up from a nap and was disoriented and ran to her room and said, ‘What’s going on, what’s going on?’ Then he ran to his room on the second floor and went out onto the ledge.”
The tragic incident became a part of Anderson’s life, 21-years-old at the time, as he told Howard Stern, “It forms everything. It may not be the first thing [I think of in the morning], but there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.”
Anderson’s experience left him with the belief that suicide is not “this clear thing” most people “like to think” it is, as it leaves the family with the question of why their loved one took their own life. Sometimes there isn’t any why,” he said.
As brothers only two years apart in age, they spent all their time together as children and Carter usually led their childhood campaigns due to his fascination with military history. Anderson had always considered them to have a close relationship but questioned this after Carter died.
“I'd always considered us close, though now I'm not so sure, because I didn't see the pain he was in. And when I did get a glimpse of it, it scared me so much I didn't know how to help,” Anderson wrote in 2018.
The CNN anchor had mostly been on autopilot since Carter’s death and likened it to the feeling when one arrived at a place without remembering how one got there.
But then he had to report on mindfulness for “60 Minutes” in 2014 which led to Anderson becoming a regular meditation practitioner. A practice that helped him live a more connected life.
“The most I get out of it [meditation] is the change it has made in my day-to-day life, in my hour-to-hour life. I’ve had incredible experiences, but I often am not appreciating them,” he said.
In June 2019, Anderson opened up about the loneliness he felt after the death of his mother on June 17, 2019.
Anderson had lost his father, Wyatt, at the age of 10 in January 1978 when his heart operation failed, but his mother, Gloria, lived until the age of 95.
Nine days before she passed, Gloria got diagnosed with stomach cancer, and Anderson stayed by her side until she drew her last breath. But with all his family gone, it left Anderson with a void.
"My dad died when I was 10, and my brother when I was 21. She was the last of my immediate family, the last person who knew me from the beginning," Anderson said. "They’re all gone, and it feels very lonely right now. I hope they are at least together."
Although Anderson and Gloria had a good relationship, the fashion icon left her son no inheritance. Not surprised by his mother’s actions, Anderson shared the good reason why Gloria left him nothing after her death.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.