"NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams adopted Tucson as his base for most of the week, anchoring the show's broadcasts here Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He ended Wednesday's broadcast with "Bear Down" to show his appreciation for the town and the University of Arizona.
Too busy to sit down for an interview, Williams responded to questions via e-mail.
Q. What stands out as the most lasting image from your time in Tucson?
A.There are a number of indelible images, starting with the Safeway, because it's so ordinary - and yet so extraordinarily violent. When I first learned of the attack, I was actually at the supermarket where we live, where I shop for groceries every weekend. I went home and watched the coverage on TV through that evening, and was standing in the Safeway parking lot by the next day.
I will always remember the candles, flowers and cards outside the congresswoman's office, and how kind and welcoming her staff members were. They were exhausted, depleted and sad - and yet they were so sweet to us, so hospitable.
The memorial service was wonderful, I thought. Perhaps those viewers who tuned in halfway through didn't understand why they heard cheering and applause from the crowd - I compared it to a steam valve releasing built-up emotion. Nothing was going to bring back those who were taken from us, but it meant everything to be able to cheer for a humble retired Army colonel who helped tackle the gunman.
Q. How does the scene here compare to other tragedies you've covered?
A. Tragedies are unique. I'd give anything not to have chronicled so many of them. My fear for Tucson is that the name of such a great place will be connected to a vile act. The Oklahoma City bombing is an example of how a community can become linked to tragedy by name, and yet - like Tucson - it's a terrific place to live.
Q. What did you do in town when you weren't working?
A. Sadly, due to the nature of our trip and our jobs, there wasn't much time to enjoy Tucson. As I said on the air, my two brothers both lived in Tucson over the years. My late brother David was TV critic for the Star, and President of the Arizona Bar Foundation. My brother Richard, a builder, was the first person to show me Ronstadt's Hardware and the Hotel Congress.
This trip made me vow to come back with my wife - after the city recovers from the initial sadness - to enjoy ourselves and visit with some of the people I've met here.
We worked out of a rental RV by day, and used it for heat at night. We did separate feeds of the broadcast for each time zone. On Wednesday night I made sure to say 'Bear Down Arizona!' at the end of our broadcast. That was for Wildcat Nation.
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org