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Remembering Ted Holtzclaw - Our friend, my friend

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.
August 14, 2012 5:58:57 AM PDT
Not Ted. Not the guy who waited to find love, waited to have a child, and then became a great husband and even better dad.

Not Ted. Not the guy who always had a smile on his face, even when he was ticked off at you.

Not Ted. Not the guy who invented "can-do."

Not Ted. Not the guy who pulled all those rabbits out of the hat for all those years (he was with ABC for 20 years) and got us to broadcast live with the biggest events -- from our corner to every corner of the world.

Not Ted. Not our friend. Not the guy who had been reborn with a new attitude about food and exercise and health.

Please, not Ted.

He was just outside the WABC TV studios on Columbus, between 66th and 67th streets, just returning from a dentist appointment this morning, when something hit him. Something big and bad and horrible. Something that made this tall and statuesque man crumble in a heap on the sidewalk, something that sapped the life out of him, perhaps even before he hit the ground. Something more powerful than his powerful will and frame. Something awful.

The guy who runs the newsstand saw it happen, and yelled.

Meteorologist Bill Evans and one of our security guys heard it, and saw Ted fall, and rushed over. They gave him CPR. I thought I felt a slight pulse, Bill told me. And so he kept at it. For 15 minutes, believing Ted would come to.

He didn't.

My partner Liz Cho arrived outside the same time as the paramedics, and she saw the commotion and saw them lift Ted onto the gurney. The daughter of a doctor, she knew.

That was about 11:30 this morning. 90 minutes later, we all knew.

We all hang on to life by a thread, under the best of circumstances.

And Ted's death has reminded us of that reality once again, and in a harsh, sorrow-filled way. We loved him, admired his work ethic and his sharp wit, and his ability to somehow make things happen. Even against all odds.

Ted was our operations manager, and was the guy responsible for reporters being "live" at the scene and for feeding in video at the scene. He was also the man responsible for getting me on the air at every big event outside our studio - from the political conventions to inaugurations to all of the Sept. 11 memorials. Ted was da-man. Always.

Last Thursday, at our planning meeting for this year's political convention coverage, I marveled once again at how Ted knew all the answers to all the questions we had. From the logistical (how long does it take to walk from the work space at the convention center to the event itself in the sports arena?) to editorial (will we have enough time to do interviews and write our stories between shows, or should we just write shorter voice overs, and can we have live guests at our arena location?) Ted knew that we depended on him to anticipate our needs and meet them.

And I can't imagine going to Tampa later this month without him in charge.

I've so many great memories about Ted - from saving our stories to taking care of us with surprising supplies of food and water - but I think the most enduring memories boil down to two.

The most important is how he would light up when asked about his son, Harrison, or his wife, Verna. As a member of the older dads club, Ted (he was 53) and I would readily share tales of the pains of sitting cross-legged on the floor (or at least trying to) and then getting up (or at least trying to). But we also shared a bond about the joys of fatherhood, especially with our careers already established.

There is another thing I'll always remember about Ted, and I've told no one this; I never talked to Ted about it, and now I so wish I had.

Denver in August, 2008, and Washington in January, 2009. Ted was in charge of our convention and inaugural live shots and feeds. It was a monumental and monumentally exhausting routine, that began early in the morning and ended well after midnight every night.

Ted was, as usual, on top of everything. But I remember his face on two separate and historic days. The first was when Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination as a candidate for President. The second was when Mr. Obama gave his inaugural address. There was - no other word for it - pride on Ted's face, lighting it up even more than his usual brightness. Ted never let politics or viewpoints or race seep into any of the coverage he was in charge of, but watching him watch Obama - first as a candidate and then as the President - it was clear that, as an African American, he was proud.

I so wish I had said something to him about those moments.

There's a great saying that we shouldn't mourn that a person isn't with us anymore; instead we should rejoice that they were here, and that we knew them and loved them.

I believe that. But damnit, right now, I'm mourning. We all are.

We loved you Ted Holtzclaw. We still do.

BILL RITTER

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