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November 20, 2006

The Mother of All Tough Choices

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The Mother of All Tough Choices, cont.

MC: Take me back in time a little, to April of last year, when Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer.
EV: I had been filling in, myself and Charlie [Gibson], from the day Peter was diagnosed. Charlie and I did it until August, when Peter died. Then, starting in September, Bob [Woodruff] and I switched off. In December, they offered the job to Bob and me. We had this blueprint for the show, which generally involved one of us at the desk and the other out in the field. It was exciting and a huge success, we felt. Then I found out I was pregnant.

MC: You mean, you didn't plan it?
EV: It was a big surprise. A friend of ours said, "Who gets pregnant naturally at your age?" My parents are very strong Catholics, and they've always said they believe things happen for a reason. Now, nine months later, with this beautiful baby boy, I couldn't feel better about this. But I admit, my initial reaction was, I can't be pregnant. I just signed on to this big job!

I told my husband, "Let's wait three months before you freak out, sweetheart." So many women my age have early miscarriages. But then I started to feel really sick. And the pace was pedal-to-the-metal, no time off. People must have known something was up — I was nauseous all the time. And then everything went down with Bob.

MC: Tell me about the day you heard Bob Woodruff had been injured.
EV: It was a Sunday, predawn. The phone rang — the phone never rings at that hour with good news. It was Paul Slavin, my boss. He pulled no punches. He told me how bad it was. It was only 45 minutes after the bombing. Lee [Woodruff's wife] didn't even know yet; they were trying to find her. She was with her kids at Disney World.

So we bundled up Zachary and went to the office. That night, I anchored the news. It was the lead story everywhere, and you're in the uncomfortable position of covering the news when the news is you. It was a really, really hard day. It was especially hard for Marc, because I'd been in Iraq several weeks earlier, and Lee had made a point of calling him and soothing his fears.

MC: How is Bob doing now?
EV: He really has defied the odds. But at that point, all we knew was, Bob's injuries were life-threatening. The network had to figure out what to do. I was still only nine or 10 weeks pregnant, and I would have liked to have gotten through the first trimester before saying anything, but it wasn't fair. They were game-planning, and they needed to know. By August, when I would have the baby and take leave — and because of the difficulty of my first pregnancy, I knew I would be having a C-section — a show designed to have two anchors would have no anchor. What was going to happen on 9/11, the fifth anniversary? What would happen if something momentous, a hurricane or another terrorist attack, occurred?

MC: So if Bob hadn't been injured, you still would have been the co-anchors?
EV: Undoubtedly. Bob would be in that chair, with someone filling in for me, and I'd return — perhaps.

MC: Why "perhaps"? Did the idea of having two small children seem daunting?
EV: Other female anchors, like Katie Couric and Soledad O'Brien, also have children. But Katie's are older now. And Soledad does a morning show, so she's there for them in the evenings. While I was doing the news solo, Marc and I saw the toll it took on Zachary — he would refuse to go to sleep till Mommy came home. It was heartbreaking.

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