Last week I came home from a really great first date (maybe I should’t say that so as to avoid jinxing it) and received a text from a friend who I have been on the outs with for around 7 months. He told me Bob Simon had been killed in a car crash in NYC.
I quickly turned on the computer and scavenged around looking for more information. It turned out to be true. Bob was riding in the back of a livery car on the west side highway (if I’m correct) his car sideswiped another car and then smashed into the medium between the oncoming lane. Bob died of a broken neck and internal injuries. I was devastated to hear this.
I had met Bob Simon a number of years back at an event based around the title of “Courage” Bob was talking about his time held as a hostage in 1991 during the first Gulf War. I didn’t know much about him prior to that event. I had seen 60 Minutes many times before and loved the show but felt no specific connection to anyone there. However, I went up to him after his talk and introduced myself and asked if he would be open to me photographing him for a portrait. He said sure and gave me his email.
A few weeks later I went up to the offices of 60 minutes to do a portrait. Bob was really generous with his time. Here I was a nobody to him and with no agenda whatsoever he is allowing me to do a portrait. I was not hired, I knew nobody at CBS and was totally unconnected but that didn’t matter to him.
I spent about 35 min with him and during that time we chatted about war and peace and the crazy times we were in. There was such a calm with him, he had seen it all from Viet Nam to 9-11 and so much more.
We finished up and a few weeks later I came by to give him a copy of some the prints. He really seemed to like the images. I asked him if he could introduce me to Morley Safer another original correspondent at 60 Minutes. Morley took my call and we arranged to do a portrait of him. In a few months I had photographed all the current correspondents and even Andy Rooney for what I think was probably his last real sitting for a portrait.
Bob Simon did that for me!
Later that night I sent a little note to Jeff Fager the executive producer at 60 Minutes to send my condolences and share a memory with him. I sent two of my favorite images from our session.
The following night at the end of the CBS nightly news they took a moment to remember Bob and in doing so they used my image of him. I’ve never had such mixed feelings in my life. I was so happy and blown away to see a photo that I had taken on the news but profoundly sad. I would prefer never to see that image for those reasons.
I will never forget what his generosity did for me.
Please wear your seatbelt, even in the back of a cab!!
You can see all of the portraits I took at the 60 minutes offices here