(EDITOR'S NOTE: Here are two remembrances of CBS News reporter Bob Simon, who died Wednesday night in an auto accident in New York. The first is by John Hockenberry, the host of PRI's The Takeaway; the second is from Jack Laurence, a longtime colleague at CBS.)
A thought now about a horrible tragedy here in New York last night. Legendary journalist Bob Simon died in a car accident. He was 73.
He was quite simply one of the most intelligent, fearless, knowledgeable, steady and dashing people to ever work in television news. He covered nearly every overseas story since the 1960s.
I worked with him in Israel back in the 1980s. He was on a first-name basis with everyone in the Israeli government who would take his calls at any hour of the night. I discovered (Simon's broad reach) one harrowing night smuggling tapes out of Gaza under curfew during the first intifada. I was stopped by masked Palestinians, who threatened me until I showed them a videotape with a CBS logo on it. When I mentioned Bob Simon, the fierce militants safely escorted me out of Gaza. All along the way, Palestinians waved and whispered "Mr. Bob Simon."
There are people all over the world who will miss the irreplaceable Bob Simon.
Bob Simon was a world class storyteller — on the air, in person, via email and telephone — he was always telling interesting and funny stories. He loved a good joke. Bob told stories less often about himself, but more often about other people in other situations that he found interesting. (He confided that Angelina Jolie, about whom he did a "60 Minutes" story, was about "the most controlling" person he'd ever met.) Bob was also an unfailing and loyal friend to his cameramen, his producers and to many people he worked with who appreciated his humor and storytelling. He loved to tell a good story.
On his way back from Turkey, Bob phoned with the amazing story of a young Syrian woman who was making a documentary about the destruction of Alleppo and had extraordinary video to illustrate it. He was full of enthusiasm about her story. We talked, as usual, about our health issues (we were always talking about that) and passed along stories about our mutual friends, what was happening with them, and where they were.
Bob and I met in 1971 when he was a reporter in the London bureau of CBS News and I was the new bureau chief. Management in New York had ordered me to fire Bob. Seriously. Among other things, they didn't like his choice of ties. (I'm not kidding!) Instead, we became friends. We edited each other's scripts and sometimes flipped a coin to decide who covered a story. We went to Northern Ireland and once did a story about the Protestants and Catholics that switched back and forth between us. We refused to compete. Even when I left CBS for ABC and we were covering the same story (preparations for the invasion of Kuwait, for example), we would not play the competition game. Bob was more interested in learning how to be a first-rate writer and rising to the challenge of finding an original way to tell a story.
In 1989, in Beijing, I looked out the window of the hotel where the networks were preparing their stories for broadcast that day and saw Bob pacing around outside talking to himself. He was trying to perfect the closing paragraph of his story on the student protests. Bob was always thinking things through — fully.
Lately, he had decided to make the most of his remaining time in life by using all of it to pursue more good stories, improve his health, and take care of his friends and family. He was in love again. He adored his young grandson, Jack, and cherished the two weeks a year he got to help take care of him. You began to understand Bob's love of his family when you saw the relationship he had with his mother, who adored him. As I did. As so many of his friends did.
Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.