Anderson Cooper Carter Vanderbilt CooperIn a rare interview, Anderson sat down with his mother, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, to discuss the tragic 1988 suicide of his brother, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, who jumped to his death at age 23 from the 14th floor terrace of their family's New York penthouse apartment."He was sitting on the wall with one foot hanging over and he kept looking down and I kept begging him [to come back]. When he went … I thought he was going to come back, but he didn't," Vanderbilt, 87, recalls during the conversation, which airs Monday on her surviving son's eponymous talk show, "Anderson.” "He let go, and there was a moment when I thought I was going to jump over after him."
The former fashion designer said it was Anderson, then 21, who gave her reason to continue living.
"I thought of you and it stopped me from [jumping]," Vanderbilt told her tearful son, 44. "There's never closure on something that happens like this.”
Though it is rare for the mother and son to speak publicly about their family tragedy, Vanderbilt addressed the topic in her 1997 book, "A Mother's Story.” In the pages, she said she believed an allergy to anti-asthma medication was behind Carter's decision to make the fatal jump.
"You never get over it, but you learn to live with it," said Vanderbilt, who also has two other sons from her second marriage.
"It's because of Anderson that I'm sitting here right now,” she added.
Anderson recalls the mournful experience as one of the many reasons he is inspired by his mother.
"You have survived so many things," he said. "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."
"It hasn't made you tough," he added. "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."