By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
I read on one of our industry websites this morning that our ABC News colleague Cynthia McFadden fell down the steps yesterday at Penn Station in New York -- she is thankfully on the mend, and apparently not seriously injured. While knowing next to nothing about her accident, it reminded me of something I did not say in yesterday's post about my Amtrak experience: it has to do with a current obsession of mine, (more like a constant rant that my friends and family are probably sick of hearing) having to do with our infrastructure.
Some days, in this city especially, it can seem as if we just reached a decision a few years ago to give up, to stop building, stop improving. It's as if we decided that we, the nation that saved the free world in the 1940's, entered the Cold War in the 1950's, made it to the moon in the 1960's... and so on... had built enough, improved enough to declare we were finished.
Upon arriving in New York on the Acela train yesterday, we exited on to the dank, dark train platform, and passed by no fewer than four idle, frozen escalators for the long trek to the main level to the station. It was like a scene from "The Land That Time Forgot." It is a daily reality for millions of daily commuters. I watched as senior citizens, laden with luggage, hoisted it up the long flight of stairs, some of them pausing to rest and catch their breath on the landing or with each individual step.
An Amtrak police officer took pity on one waiting group of passengers and actually turned the "up" escalator on with the flick of a key. When we made it to the first level, two more sets of stairs awaited -- slick, narrow and dirty -- the only way to get to street level, as the crowds waiting for the elevator bank were already three elevator cars deep.
There is no sign of any capital improvement to the station going back years -- not a dollar spent on easing the passenger experience. So many of the streets of the city resemble moguls on a ski slope -- huge steam vents below my office window on 49th street force traffic to negotiate holes in the middle of the road and snarl traffic.
Many of our bridges and parkways and highways are just as Robert Moses left them the day they were completed. The 2-mile stretch of highway leading from the Lincoln Tunnel to the New Jersey Turnpike in Hoboken might be the single worst stretch of highway in America. It never changes. And I'm motivated, every day, by knowing we can do so much better -- knowing we're the nation that went to the moon and saved the world in World War Two. While there are a few public-minded souls here in New York and elsewhere who are pushing this issue (it sure isn't sexy, as issues go), it is much easier to get up each day and put up with it and pretend not to notice.
THE CARDINAL AND ENGEL
What an eventful 2:30pm editorial meeting today. In addition to formating Nightly, we had a special guest, and a major farewell. Cardinal Foley, an old friend of this network, stopped by after an appearance down the hall on MSNBC. His Eminence the Cardinal has been our on-air expert "voice of the Vatican" for many special events over many years, a wonderful man always of good cheer.
Speaking of which, we said farewell to Richard Engel today, who will soon be returning to his post. Richard will return to New York in a few weeks to go on tour with his new book. In the meantime, he's off to do some reporting. As of today, he carries with him a new title: NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent.
His outlook remains shockingly cheerful, given the violence he's seen in the past five years. In talking about daily life in our Baghdad Bureau, he mentioned as an aside that following the last bombing in the neighborhood, a human leg was found floating in the swimming pool of the building we rent in Baghdad. We went on to the next topic... and we wished our friend Richard safe travels, as always.
We hope you can join us for tonight's broadcast. Please have a good weekend.
Photos by M.L. Flynn