I was both shocked and saddened to hear the news of Peter Jennings' passing earlier today. Having grown up watching all the evening news broadcasts, I often found myself switching the channel to ABC News, primarily because of Peter Jennings. His intelligence, seriousness, compassion and exhaustive dedication to finding the story -- wherever in the world it might be -- were surpassed only by his ability to communicate the story to the rest of us in a way that we could not only understand, but also by often putting it into a perspective that helped us better understand our world.
In 2001, I had an opportunity to meet and talk with Mr. Jennings at a business luncheon in New York City. He was as gracious and affable in person as he appeared on the television set, and he invited me to watch the World News Tonight broadcast live from the ABC News Studios, an offer I took him up on just before I left New York. Sitting in the control room where all the producers were putting the broadcast together was about the most nerve-wracking thing I had ever seen, but looking down over the studio where Peter Jennings's desk was, I couldn't help but notice how extremely calm, cool, and collected he was as he scribbled edits on the teleprompter sheet or answered emails from viewers before his next segment.
Four months later, it was that very same calm demeanor that helped myself and viewers around the globe as they wrestled with comprehending the day that was 9/11. Although I was some 1,500 miles away from NY, with Peter Jennings reporting, he was able to make that horrible day just a little bit better.
He will surely be missed, and for those of us who were his regular viewers, he already was.