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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saying goodbye

In the last few weeks, many notable luminaries have passed from our midst, now part of history, and all having touched our lives on many different levels.

The list of names is long for such a brief period of time: “infomercial king” Billy Mays; actress Gale Storm; actor Karl Malden; the “king of pop” Michael Jackson; actress Farrah Fawcett; “late-night sidekick” Ed McMahon; author Frank McCourt; actor James Whitmore, and broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite.

I remember flipping television channels and catching sales pitches from Mays, and giggling at the antics of Storm and retorts by McMahon; going into a hairdresser and asking for a “Fawcett” cut and sitting in a darkened theater enthralled by performances of Whitmore and Malden; humming a Jackson song and being moved by McCourt’s words, all fine watercolor memories, but for me, Walter Cronkite’s death brought more reflection than any on that list.

He had been a part of my life in the 20th century, perhaps more than any of the others.

It’s odd, but I have vivid memories of where I was and what I was doing when Cronkite broke the heart-rending news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination; the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; when “one small step” was taken for mankind on the lunar surface and then again, when Apollo 13 Commander James A. Lovell reported he had “a problem.” He was there for us during the violent demonstrations in Chicago reporting the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and he was always there as the numbers of casualties rose day-by-day during the Vietnam War. He was there during the Watergate Scandal; he was there announcing the death of President Johnson and the resignation of Richard M. Nixon. He was a trusted voice and image, always there, always reporting events as they unfolded in real time.

Cronkite also reached back into history and as presenter and host of You Are There during the 1950s and then again, in the early 70s, he took me on historical newsworthy voyages of the past, opening each program with, "All things are as they were then, except... You Are There." and concluding each of those fascinating mini documentaries by saying, "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... and you were there."

For many years, Cronkite illuminated us all with his accurate and thoughtful reporting. I will miss this “most trusted man in America” and I will miss his other verbal signature, “that’s the way it is.”

1 comment:

BarryGillogly said...

A great tribute to a great man. For those of us who grew up with Walter your comments touch a chord.