Sign The Guestbook
View The Guestbook
Archived Guestbook
Submit An Article
Staff List
Privacy Policy


Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

June 16, 2008

Thoughts on mortality.

Several years ago I was in a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C. for a business lunch. At one particular moment, the entire Restaurant seemed to drop a decibel in noise level. The woman seated across from me leaned in to all of us and said: Tim Russert is here. When eventually the restaurant had assimilated the presence of Mr. Russert, all went back to normal.

He had that kind of presence. If it had been a restaurant in Los Angeles I think the reaction would have been parallel though several notches below the stir he created in D.C. In Washington, he was one of the biggest stars in town, NBC's Washington's Bureau Chief, host of MEET THE PRESS and one of the most intelligent newsmen in the business with a laser like focus on a subject. In news he was as formidable a presence as Brad Pitt is to the movies.

He died last week, suddenly, at his desk, victim of a massive coronary.

All weekend he has been discussed and remembered by politicians and men on the street. He had come into lives in a way few newsmen do and his sudden, unexpected passing carried a great weight with it. We had lost a familiar face and voice and someone we thought of as a friendly, wise presence in our lives. His passing has caused me to think about mortality, my own and others. His unexpected passing touched me.

My mind had already been thinking about life and death. I was enormously affected by the story of a man whose name I only know now because I googled him. His name was Eduard Burceag. He and his wife, Mariana, and a friend, Daniel Vlad, were caught in a sudden late spring blizzard on Mount Rainier on a day hike. He used his body to take the brunt of the blizzard. He died; his wife and friend lived.

In another incident that has haunted me this weekend as I have been contemplating life and death is that of the story of a Boy Scout camp in Iowa that was visited by a deadly tornado. Four
scouts died; the rest distinguished themselves with their courage and generosity. As the storm hit older boys threw themselves on younger ones to shield them. When the tornado passed, the entire group attacked the rubble of the structure where some had been caught with their bare hands, scrambling to reach survivors.

For those who have read my letters over the years, you will understand that I am stunned by the goodness of men while at the same time appalled at our capacity for cruelty.

As I listened this weekend to the eulogies for Tim Russert I have been struck by what seemed to be the fundamental decency of the man. I am sure he had his full share of ego but it also seemed he never forgot in the deepest part of himself that he came from Buffalo and was the son of a sanitation worker, a man of whom he was loudly, articulately and hugely proud for being an example of the qualities that created the America in which we live.

Those qualities are exemplified by Mr. Russert, his father, Eduard Burceag on the mountain, by those Boy Scouts in Iowa who threw themselves on younger boys to protect them and all the others who used their bare hands to get to their comrades.

What mystifies me is that as men do good, they do evil things too. While Eduard was giving his life for his wife and friend, other men were doing their best to kill some other men in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur, Pakistan. And as they do their best to kill, they do great collateral damage.

I ponder all of this, frequently. We probably all should. Somewhere in all of this is the essence of what it means to be human.