“The Person Who Changed My Life,” a two-hour special hosted by Anderson Cooper and Michaela Pereira, airs Sunday, January 24, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
“Where is he??”
It was the evening of President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address. I was in Washington, fresh off of a two-hour show live in the Cannon Rotunda in the House of Representatives. I’d unhooked my microphone and IFB and dialed my friend Rashad Jones. He’s the friend I’ve managed to hold onto the longest; we go way back to those awkward teen years in the seventh grade. He didn’t answer.
I tried his other number. Nothing. Texted. Nothing. Anyone who knows Rashad knows he would never miss an opportunity to talk. He is the most opinionated, most inquisitive, most authentic person I know.
Sure, he’s on a ship somewhere in the Middle East (he shipped off a few weeks ago as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy as executive officer on the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio), but that has never stopped him before from picking up the phone, inserting himself into my boring-compared-to-his-life and peppering me with questions.
It goes something like this: “I heard Donald Trump said this – is it true? What did Jeb say? How’s he going to do in Iowa?”
Or “What do you think of what’s going on in Chicago? I saw that video of that kid … Why did it take so long for police to release the video?”
Or “You’re on too many planes lately. Are you getting good sleep?? And how’s your love life??”
Nothing is off-limits with Rashad. Nothing. And that’s exactly the way I like it.
But on this night in our nation’s capital as I waited impatiently, my normally loquacious friend was nowhere to be found. I sat perplexed until my phone vibrated with a headline from CNN.com – something about 10 American sailors being detained in Iran.
My mind raced back to my last message from him about going next to Bahrain. My heart sank. Could Rashad be one of those 10?
I wasted no time and immediately pinged his wife. Surely she would know. I waited, waited. Finally I was assured he was OK and not among the 10 sailors. Still, I wanted to hear from him. I still needed assurance he was okay.
Fast forward to the next morning. A Facebook message from Rashad: “Thanks for thinking of me. I am so tired and drained. I pulled each sailor on board our ship personally … This has been one of the longest two days of my career.” Incredible; Rashad was in the thick of it.
Of course he was.
Later that day, I had to go on air and report on precisely what my dear friend was so deeply engaged in – this dicey geopolitical scenario involving, of all counties, Iran.
Whether it’s U.S. military ops, terrorism or race relations, Rashad and my worlds continue to collide. I’m reporting on a world at war. He’s fighting in one. When I think about why I chose Rashad as one of the most inspirational people I know, it was easy. Rashad has taught me to always be open to a different perspective, to tell the stories of people who aren’t always listened to and to be fair.
As for our phone date, we will just reschedule. Rashad and I never let breaking news or world events get in our way (though in our worlds, that’s often one in the same). And that’s exactly the way I like it.
#MyLifeChanger: In a tweet or Instagram post, tell us about the mentor, family member or once-in-a-lifetime friend that helped shape your life.