Dec. 11, 2009— -- "Good Morning America."
With that, we were off and running at 7:01 in the morning on Jan. 18, 1999. Charlie and Diane, side by side.
Our first story that morning, a rare F4 tornado hits Jackson, Tenn.
And what I learned from you in 11 years of searching through the waters of Katrina and the wreckage of the tsunami in Southeast Asia, is that ... if we are together, we can bear more.
All told, together we circled the globe 14 times, more than 350,000 miles in 11 years, questioning world leaders.
In Iran, an angry mob yelling "Death to America" at me.
And, then, unexpectedly, one of the screaming women looked me in the face and said, "I love you."
We traveled to the Mideast together during the war in Iraq, and on the noisy MedEvac plane carrying some of the wounded. We learned that life cannot be stopped. And on we went to find stories of the women in Afghanistan and the icebergs in Finland.
In South Africa, the girls at Oprah's school school taught us the song Bambilayla, which you sing in the poorest parts in the slum. It means "hold on."
There were songs from the living, and a message to us from the dying.
Beloved professor Randy Pausch, stricken with pancreatic cancer, and writing "The Last Lecture" that would fill us with love, even for the toughest days we get to spend on earth.
Charlie and I together became parents of the first live morning broadcast of babies being born.
Found My Childhood Paper Doll
You were there when we needed you, for the children who grew up as foster kids struggling without parents in a bruising system.
We tried to break apart unfeeling bureaucracy. We learned that no matter the age, even the tough-looking teens are just children aching for a family like yours.
Again, you reached out to help when I took you to the poorest places in America, opening your hearts.
In Camden, Ivan had no home. He dreamed of food.
"My heart is going to be sad. … I want my own room, and I'm never going to get it," he said.
But, thanks to you, he got his room.
We spent the night together in a maximum security prison to learn about people who stood at a crossroads and took a wrong turn, and we spent a lot of days with magical people.
I even got to find my childhood paper doll. Esther Williams, still beautiful and ready to swim a duo.
And in a moment so dear to all of you who wrote to me, the interview with Nancy Reagan about the last moments in the life of a president and husband.
"And Ronnie all of a sudden turned his head and looked at me and opened his eyes and just looked," she said. "And then he closed them. Well, what a gift he gave me at that point. What a wonderful gift."
Thousands of Sleepless Mornings
Some three thousand days we spent together. Some three thousand mornings. The challenging ones. Sept. 11.
That morning I raced down to ground zero, where the embers were still burning.
And one year later, we gathered together some newborn babies who looked so much like their dads who died that day, babies who rededicated us to hope with every squirm and cry.
One woman said to her baby, "You are the kiss your father left behind."
And just like our famous train trip on the railways of America, every day here has been a journey forward, a grateful journey forward, with the "GMA" family around me through all the passages.
We were delighted when Charlie became a granddad.
We held close when we lost our friend, our pal, Joel Siegel.
We celebrated with Chris, Bella and second child Mario, jumping their way through birthday after birthday.
And off-camera, so much a part of each others' lives. When Sam wanted to heal an old shoulder injury, his workout buddy was Chris stepping in.
And Robin, beloved Robin, showed me how you hold on when the news is tough. And then how you take it on. And then laugh and sing for joy.
Thousands of days together. Thousands of sleepless mornings. Not to mention all the unslept nights working with people I love, in front of the camera and hundreds off-screen.
Working every shift, 24-hours a day, all that passion, serious purpose, exuberance and heart.
All I can say is, wherever I am, to all of you at home and here at "Good Morning America," there's no mountain high enough to keep me from you.
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