Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings dead at 67

I wanted to share a few words on Peter Jennings.
Growing up in Michigan, there was always the same thing heard from my television at 6:30 each evening. It was the familiar song from ABC World News Tonight. Our house, for the most part, was a Peter Jennings house. Maybe it was because he was Canadian and we were so close to Canada. Maybe it was because we liked his voice. But, for whatever reason, Peter was the person who told us what was going on.
There was a certain comfort hearing his voice growing up. Sure, perhaps it was that "Voice of God" thing that everyone talks about with this last great group of anchors, but for me as a child I think it was something else. For me, it was security. I was always deeply disturbed by the 80's Cold War. Sure, it's hard to accept that a eight year old could comprehend the possibilities and scenarios that surrounded the total destruction of the world had we and the U.S.S.R. went at it. However, if you knew me as a kid, you'd understand that it was perfectly normal for me. At any rate, I was scared, I was scared a lot, but every night I heard Peter explain what was going on, and that made me feel good. I watched as the wall came down and communism ended, and Peter was there.
I remember before that, listening to him explain to me what happened when the Challenger blew up. I was in kindergarten, and I was very upset. Every kid wants to be an astronaut, and they were heroes to me and my class. We were watching on TV, it was brilliant, and then, it was over. My teacher didn't know what to do. Peter was there, and he guided us back down until the principle let school out so everyone could go home and be with their families.
Then the War in the Gulf happened, the first one, good 'ole Desert Storm, Peter was there for me. I knew my uncle was out there in the most technologically advance tank of it's time, the M1-A1 Abrams, but I was still scared. I knew it was going down and for a thirteen year old, I was overly sensitive to the consequences of what was happening. I was in my basement working on some homework when the bombs started to fall, I cried, but Peter was there. He explained that this was an aerial assault, this was to weaken up the ground forces so that when our boys went in, there was a little resistance as possible for them. That made me feel good.
Most recently, there was 9/11. I, as most other people at the time, had no idea what was going on. I had heard rumors in class that morning that a plane had hit the WTC. I figured it was a prop plane, that was blown off course, and lost control. It wasn't until I walked into the Student Union that I saw the second tower fall and understood the gravity of just what had happened. I stood in awe, realizing this was now a key moment that I will remember the rest of my life, and there was one voice I heard in the background, the same voice that had been there before, it was Peter. For one reason or another, that made me feel good, it made me feel safe. I needed that.
Through the years as I grew up, and even before 9/11, my interests moved more towards NBC and Tom Brokaw. I liked Tom, and I liked NBC's coverage better than ABC. Peter was still a close second, and I still flipped between them, much to the angst of my girlfriend, who was a firm Tom fan. I remember hearing Peter on April 5th sign off for the last time. There was hope in his voice, he didn't think this was the end, as a matter of fact he said he'd be back, when he felt better.
Peter is gone now, and to me it seems like I've lost a good friend. He was there for some of the defining moments of my generation, speaking as if only to me. Walking me through what was happening. Keeping my feet on the ground. I was always fascinated by listening to him in interviews, especially when he would appear on Conan O'Brian. There was a unique feeling listening to a "voice of God" talking about his kids, going to the store, mowing the lawn, and other normal thing. I'll miss Peter.
Peter Jennings died today, he was 67.


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