By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
Today it appears Wall Street paused to light a cigar while Rome itself is burning. We're covering the bailout crisis -- which has hardly gone away -- and still tallying up the damage from yesterday. Almost lost in yesterday's news -- the 777-point dive in the Dow, and the "no" vote on the Hill -- was the fact that the nation's 4th largest bank vanished. And almost lost amidst the financial losses: was the death of an American icon.
Paul Newman died on Friday, and we learned about it on Saturday morning. Because of this quirk of the timing of his departure, the coverage of his death trickled out. Of a possible six total network evening newscasts over the weekend, there was only one (due to sports pre-emptions), and because word of his death came during the weekend, Paul (who had some very strident and well-known opinions about television and the news media) was spared the entertainment show-style dissection of his life and the blanket cable coverage that his death would have received during the week.
Please forgive the following first-person references (normally grossly inappropriate in eulogies and remembrances), as they are meant merely as a statement of blessings: I got to see his last race as a driver and his last stage performance as an actor. I was present as he climbed out of the car in the pits, and I was present when he climbed down the stairs off the stage.
In both cases, Joanne Woodward, his wife of 50 years, was there to greet him, which was perfect. Listening to David Letterman's beautiful, personal and emotional tribute to him last night, I was reminded that he lived a great life -- he had fun, he worked hard, he left a pile of great work behind, he insisted on enjoying himself, and he dedicated himself to helping others. So many lives were altered by his life. He actually left the world a better place. How many people can say that? We've lost a great man. At least we knew we were in the presence of greatness, every moment we spent watching him, no matter what he was doing.
I hope you can join us for our broadcast tonight.