The news of Tim Russert’s untimely death made its way around the world in seconds. Just off a plane in Istanbul Friday night, I received a SMS on my BlackBerry from a friend in New York City with the shocking news, even before the e-letter bulletins started to flood my Berry from the usual variety of news sources.
It’s incomprehensible to absorb and understand the passing of someone so young in his or her prime. Tim seemed to be that superman of sorts, who reportedly enjoyed the best of everything: growing up in a western New York city, a mirror of Middle America, hardworking parents, a great childhood, family, learning under political giants Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Governor Mario Cuomo, and then onto television journalism, while raising a son with his wife, who shared a great family life with their son Luke, and their interest in journalism.
The news must be tragic for Russert’s wife, Maureen, son Luke, whom he proudly discussed often, his father “Big Russ,” a seemingly modest blue-collar World War II veteran, who was clearly idolized by Russert, before sharing him with readers in his two best-selling books. And, then, there are those who worked with him in the media business, not generally known for being the kindest of lots, but certainly human nonetheless. Tributes from politicos, journalists, both his colleagues at NBC News and competition have been in abundance.
Russert’s story is a perfect portrait of America. A country of promise, of aspiring for great achievements and giving back. This is the America I remember growing up in New Orleans. This was country that my father fought to come to, escaping what would be the horrors of the Holocaust in Germany, and my maternal grandparents, who arrived years earlier, also at Ellis Island from Czarist Russia. Immigrants, it has been often said, appreciate America more than those of us, who were born and raised there. Tom Brokaw, the former NBC Nightly News anchor, and author of best-selling books said it well in what could probably become a classic American story about our nation’s Greatest Generation.
Tim Russert’s father was part of that generation, as was my father, mother, uncles and aunts. So many of that generation, who grew up in the 1930s Depression, worked harder and lived tougher lives than we will know. with so little, so we would have a better life and country.
Russert adored his family we are told. He shared his love of his father, his hometown of Buffalo, where I once lived, as this industrial town remains a true representation of the values our country, which is sorely missing today.
While Tim has been praised for helping re-invent the Sunday political chat shows, reviving the iconic “Meet the Press”, and shepherding the all-important news bureau in Washington, D.C,, he will and should also be remembered for showcasing with love, not just his father (and mother), but parents everywhere, who sometimes get very little in return once their children are raised.
It is sad, but almost fitting that Russert collapsed in the DC bureau, preparing for two of the many major events in his life: The Sunday broadcast of “Meet the Press’, which is taped live at 9:00, and Father’s Day.
If we are to remember his legacy, not only as a lawyer-turned-political aide-turned-broadcaster, a devout believer in faith, charitable contributor, and mentoring tomorrow’s generation, we would be remiss for not thanking him for praising our fathers (and mothers) and the generation that has sacrificed much to give us a better life than their own.