By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
I write this on the sad train ride to Washington. A trip I wish I didn't have to make. Those of us who are members of the NBC News family are in for two excruciatingly sad days ahead.
But much more importantly -- speaking for the New York-based delegation that is today southbound by plane and train: we have an important role to provide comfort and support to those who need it most, the Russert family and our beloved friends and colleagues in the Washington bureau. They are a close-knit bunch. I was once a member of their ranks (now ex-officio, I guess) and I know the place and the people all too well. A lot of us have flown a lot of miles together and endured what seemed like various crises at the time. Nothing like this.
In talking to Tom Brokaw yesterday, I realized neither of us has yet caught our breath. It's still not there -- totally depleted since that afternoon when the word arrived. There are hundreds of us, all walking around the same way, pretending to function, not really caring about much else for now.
A conductor with a ruddy Irish complexion just stopped where my wife and I are sitting, and gently, respectfully -- apologetically, almost -- grabbed my hand and expressed his condolences over the loss of a man he had never met, but felt he knew nonetheless. He said, "If there's any way you could possibly tell his family how much he meant to us...I felt I knew him...he was a regular guy...I'd sure appreciate that. I appreciated him."
That's a common thing during these sad days: if you are a recognizable member of the NBC family, you're going to get stopped by people who just want to talk about Tim. They want to say how sorry they are. And I'm happy to meet them, happy to hear it -- and powerless to deflect it, direct it or change it.
And so we make our way south along a stretch of train track that seems to take on a certain sadness today -- and under summer skies that seem to darken as we near our destination.
What we're all suffering from can actually be expressed quite simply: we cannot believe that Tim Russert, our lion, is gone. We all fear that what awaits us in Washington is confirmation of that. It's human nature, I guess, to go on hoping that somehow this is all a big mistake -- one of Tim's gentle momentary hoaxes, the payoff line always delivered with a laugh that made his shoulders bounce, as his twinkling Irish eyes invariably teared up.
How is it that the heart that sustained so many, failed the one man we travel to Washington to mourn?
These are our sorrows, of course, and I share them here because of the enormous public outporing following Tim's death. We continue to cover the news aggressively -- and today it's again led by the suffering in the Midwest. Anger has taken its place alongside the rampant sadness in Iowa -- anger from homeowners who've been blocked from returning to their own homes, even though they as property owners wish to assume the risk, even though the waters have gone down. I completely understand their fury. A government they elected in a free country is preventing them from protecting their property. One man tried to drive through a police roadblock yesterday -- to get to his own house -- and the photo of the police officer drawing his weapon and aiming it at the driver (who was arrested) is disturbing. It is among the stories we will cover for you tonight.
We hope you can join us for tonight's broadcast from our NBC News Washington Bureau.