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Newsman McWethy remembered as reporter 'always'

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN's Barbara Starr recalls working with ex-ABC reporter, including on 9/11
  • Starr says she told colleague at Pentagon on 9/11: "I don't want to die in here"
  • John "Jack" McWethy died in Colorado ski accident Wednesday
  • McWethy was "a reporter first, foremost and always," Starr says
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By Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau
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Editor's note: On September 11, 2001, Barbara Starr was working alongside ABC News correspondent John McWethy as his Pentagon producer. After his death Wednesday in a skiing accident, Starr shares memories of the reporter whom friends and colleagues called "Jack."

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "We've been hit ... we're getting out of here." Those were John "Jack" McWethy's terse words into the telephone at 9:30 on the morning of September 11 from the ABC News broadcast booth we shared.

It was at that moment I was joined with Jack and his wife, Laurie, because no matter whatever happened before or after in my personal and professional life, they were my family on that dreadful day.

For three years, I worked with Jack as his Pentagon producer in that booth. For three years, I watched one of the finest news reporters do what so many in television still cannot do to this day -- be a reporter first, foremost and always.

Within seconds after the 9/11 attack, Jack and I were making our way to the nearest exit of the Pentagon, but already thousands of military people and civilian workers were crowding the hallways.

I remember with utter clarity saying to Jack, "I don't want to die in here."

At that point I don't even know how we knew a plane had hit the building -- but we knew.

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  • Ex-ABC newsman McWethy dies in ski accident

We got to the exit, and unbelievably the doors had been locked.

There was a huge backup of people calmly, but urgently, trying to get out of the building. Finally, the doors opened and in the press of people, Jack went one way, I went the other.

We would not find each other again until that afternoon amid the horrors of flames, body bags and sirens screaming past as emergency vehicles rushed to the Pentagon.

At that point Laurie and I made plans to rendezvous. She was bringing Jack clothes and gear, while my job was to get it all past the police checkpoints to the site where Jack was broadcasting. Nobody went home that night.

The world had changed so much that day, but as I look back, there was one constant -- just reporting the news.

I started working with Jack in August 1998. Within days, al Qaeda bombed U.S. embassies in East Africa, and it would be al Qaeda that continued to cast its long, dark shadow.

Thursday morning, when I got to work at CNN, my first call was from an Army colonel in Baghdad, where the news of Jack's passing had reached them overnight. He was part of the "family" of friends that Jack has left a mark on forever.

But through all the stories, all the news, the legacy that Jack has left with me is so much deeper.

His devotion to Laurie and sons Adam and Ian was utter and complete.

He always knew without exception what so many in the powerful business of TV news fail to learn until it's too late: In the end, all we have is our families and our friends, and our self-respect as news reporters.

Jack knew that, and he made sure I did, too. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About The PentagonSeptember 11 AttacksBarbara Starr

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