Transcript: Lung Cancer Awareness: Remembering Peter Jennings

Elizabeth Jennings reflects on father's life for lung cancer awareness.

Nov. 26, 2010 — -- Five years ago, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings passed away after a months-long battle with lung cancer. With his passing, ABC News President David Westin tasked the company with honoring his legacy by continuing "the work he loved so much and inspired us to do."

Now, Jennings' daughter Elizabeth is paying tribute to her father another way -- by helping to raise the national conversation during Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Elizabeth Jennings sat down with a long-time colleague of her father's, ABC News' Bob Woodruff, to talk about Peter Jennings' life, death and legacy.

Below is the transcript of their conversation.

Elizabeth Jennings: He's Still Here in a Lot of Ways

BOB WOODRUFF: Do you remember that day when you found out?

ELIZABETH JENNINGS: Yeah... I could tell there was something wrong right away, it was something in his voice. His voice always gave him away.

He said, "Well, it, you know, it turns out that I have cancer--" which takes your breath away when you hear it. And he said, "But we're gonna fight this."

I remember thinking how brave he was to go on, and say what he did. The way that he did it and he relayed that story as he had hundreds of other stories, which was, you know, professionally, but with so much humanity, as well. I love that about him.

BW: Well, that was really the first time that he talked about his smoking and his cancer.

EJ: He talked about when he had been a smoker when he was younger and he quit. And I have funny memories of being a kid, and trying to steal his cigarettes, to destroy them, you know.

BW: I did that with my mother. (LAUGHS)

EJ: Yeah, so you know. Throw 'em in the garbage. Hide the lighters. In fact, I even remember there were ABC lighters. I felt this as a kid, this was a very bad influence.

BW: Yeah, we don't make those anymore.

EJ: I'm glad to hear that.

Elizabeth Jennings recalls her father's last moments.

EJ: And at the end, we were all in bed together. We had a team of nurses at home and we were at home, and we were all in bed together. And --

BW: You all fit in one bed?

EJ: Yes. It was -- thank God they had a big enough bed for all of us. We were all there under the covers together, sort of, you know, the way you are with your parents when you're a little kid, and you crawl into bed together on a Sunday morning. Right up until the last minute.

BW: What's it like to not have your father anymore?

EJ: Well, the obvious answer is that it's very difficult. And I sometimes always think that, "maybe, you know, maybe he'll walk through the door." Or there are times when you really need a dad's advice. So you have this dialogue inside. And in my head, he's still there in a lot of ways.

BW: Given the fact that your father was so well known, do you think that people really woke up about lung cancer because of that?

EJ: We get stories every once in a while from friends, or friends of friends, or complete strangers about how they quit smoking because of dad, or how they finally became aware of the possibility that if they smoked, they might also get lung cancer because of him.

And its… whether you have the right to put your family through that, you know, I think people don't always think about it in that respect. 'Cause it's not just the people who get sick, and who may or may not die, but it is the people you leave behind.

BW: Were you angry at him for smoking?

EJ: No, I wasn't. I don't know if I should have been or not, but I wasn't. It would have been hard to be angry at him for anything at that point except for, you know, dying.

BW: He would actually call you on the phone during commercials?


BW: And even at 6:29 before the show is about to go on?

EJ: Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Always at the last minute, too. I'm not sure if that was, sort of -- that became part of the routine. But yeah, he would call right before, and say, I mean, anything, just "Hi. I love you. Oh, gotta go," and then hang up the phone immediately.

And I'm, like, "Oh, okay."

Elizabeth Jennings talks about her father and ABC News.

EJ: ABC still feels like family. The people that he worked with still feel like family. You still feel like family.

BW: So I can be your brother? (LAUGHTER)

EJ: Maybe a godfather. (LAUGHS)

BW: I can't be Peter's son?

EJ: No, no. I think you missed that window. Sorry, Bob. Yeah.

BW: You're so good. Thank you so much.

EJ: It's a pleasure.

CLICK HERE to visit the American Lung Association website to learn more about Lung Cancer Awareness Month.