Bravo to CBS for its elevation of “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley to anchor of “The CBS Evening News” — the right person for the right job at the right time.
Pelley has covered news from Iraq dozens of times, traveled with the XVIII Airborne Corps in its assault on Iraq and Kuwait, and has reported on such major events as the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas, and the1995 Oklahoma City bombing. But Pelley told this column that the story that tops all others for him was the 9/11 attacks.
He was there in Manhattan when the first World Trade Center tower was hit by a hijacked airplane. Then, “‘I was within a few blocks when of the building when it collapsed. The human mind does the strangest things. It looked like I was watching slow motion and I remember thinking, ‘It will stop. It will fall five or 10 stories, then stop,’ but it kept going and then finally there was that hurricane of powder and dust and debris. To see a 120 story building collapse is the scariest thing you can ever see. For the rest of my life I will be in awe of the police officers and fire fighters who stood there and did their jobs.'”
Pelley recalled that CBS was on the air non-stop, commercial-free for 96 hours, and that he stayed at Ground Zero filing reports for two weeks. “It’s like covering a hurricane or any other natural disaster. You stay there and work there until there’s no more work to do.”
The considerable time that Pelley spent covering our wars in the mid-East have convinced him that, “Agree or disagree, you should stand in awe and gratitude of that young man or woman in that foxhole. One of my biggest regrets is that I never wore the uniform of our country, but I have been in contact with many in the armed forces and consider it a privilege to have been with these guys.”
What a fitting highlight to Pelley’s personal story that he should be named CBS’s new top newscaster the same week Osama Bin Laden met his doom.