Several hundred of Charlie Gibson's ABC News colleagues, friends and family members packed the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center in New York City Thursday evening to honor the man as he winds down his tenure anchoring "World News" -- and to marvel at the broad sweep of a three-and-a-half-decade career at ABC News.
"The first rough draft of history over this generation has been seen by an entire nation through the eyes of Charlie Gibson," said ABC News President David Westin, who toasted Gibson's leadership role as "an essential glue that has held us all together."
Photos lined the walls -- Gibson cooking with Julia Child, sitting down with President Obama, reporting from the Vatican and anchoring 2008 election night coverage -- all evidence of what the invitation from Westin and Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney described as Gibson's "remarkable" career.
The room, filled with lighted candles and flowers, was wall-to-wall with well-wishers, many of whom personally greeted Gibson, 66, and recounted memories from assignments over the years.
Along with the memories, there were a few laughs.
"In sports, we know that when a star player decides to step off the field at the top of his game, the team generally retires his jersey," Sweeney said in a toast. "I think it's a little bit sad that we don't have that kind of ritual in TV news, and I really wish we did so that we could honor Charlie's importance and his contributions to all of us and to journalism. So tonight, Charlie, I am going to respectfully request that you retire your tie."
"I shower in a tie," Gibson quipped.
Gibson's last day helming "World News" is today. He will be succeeded by Diane Sawyer, who will "be in the chair on Monday at 6:30 as our audience would expect," Westin wrote in an e-mail to ABC News staff earlier Thursday.
Sawyer was called away on assignment unexpectedly, but Gibson's former co-anchor on "Good Morning America" called him before the event to offer congratulations on his retirement.
'I Have Loved Every Damn Day'
In his speech, Gibson recounted his transition from being a local reporter in Washington, D.C., to a network news reporter and later a co-anchor of "Good Morning America" and an anchor of "World News."
The passionate baseball fan said, "I lucked into the best team game outside of sports," and thanked his ABC News colleagues for their dedication to excellence in their work.
"You can't forget how important it is what we do," he said. "You get caught up in the competitive aspects, you get caught up on so many ephemeral things and you get worried about this and that, but in the bottom line, the most important thing, overall, is that what we do is important."
"It has been an honor to work with all of you, truly an honor," he added. "I have loved every damn day of it. Thank you."
Dr. Tim: 'OK When Charlie Was at the Helm'
Besides Westin and Sweeney, longtime ABC News medical editor Dr. Timothy Johnson and Gibson's adult daughters, Jessica Gibson Rosen and Kate Gibson, also toasted the "World News" anchor.
"We knew things were going to be OK when Charlie was at the helm," Dr. Tim said. "And that's not only because of his incredible intelligence and his great communication skills, but because he does give us a part of himself, he gives us a part of his heart."
"It is time for anchor away at the moment," he added, "but you should know that in our hearts there will always be a permanent and special place for you. And so, we thank you for the memories, and we wish you Godspeed."
Several other Gibson colleagues looked on as he was toasted. Among the guests were Barbara Walters, "Good Morning America" anchors Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos and Juju Chang, "20/20" anchors Elizabeth Vargas and Chris Cuomo, "Nightline" anchors Terry Moran and Cynthia McFadden, and ABC News correspondents including Martha Raddatz, Jake Tapper, Ron Claiborne, Dr. Richard Besser, Dan Harris, Jim Avila, Betsy Stark, Lisa Stark, Bob Woodruff, Stephanie Sy, Andrea Canning and John Quinones.