Monday, August 08, 2005

I never listen to the news before I get to work, when I click on the New York Times as the official beginning of my day. A bleary-eyed shower, walk to the EL and train ride don't really count.

This morning I had to run out of my office and into the bathroom and bawl for a good five minutes. I've had a rough weekend, and that is part of it. But Peter Jennings has been a huge figure in my internal life. How to explain? I've been a news junkie my whole life. I had no real father figure in my life and few male role models to speak of, and he was urbane in a way that I longed to be from a very young age, due much to his influence, I imagine. He was my hero. How else to put it? I think I understood the dangers of the world as a child better than most of my peers, and he was the best defense against the worst of those dangers that I could imagine. That might sound quaint or silly, but he has remained in that role, one of the most precious in my life, until now. I can't imagine another journalist will ever make me feel that way again.

In the last decade, I watched ABC's World News Tonight very rarely. It is on in Chicago during my commute home. But, whenever something terrible has happened, he was solace second only to my two Moms.

I was glad he could be emotional, although I know he did not want to be. At some point during the continuous broadcast at the beginning of the Iraq war, there was a young reporter close to sites being bombed, reporting despite the danger but obviously nervous, and Jennings, in a very quivery voice that showed his fear for the reporter's safety and blatant pride in his courage, informed him he could feel free, with the network's blessing, to flee and hide any time he liked. Quinessential Jennings. Professional, measured and compelling. And so truly human andutterly in the moment.

I don't know if I can write and do justice to my feelings about this man. The next time everyone in America gathers around their TV sets to watch as a tragedy occurs with hideous speed, as one invariably will, I, for one, suspect I will feel just a little bit lonelier than I ever have before.

No comments: