We've come here to welcome back two of our own. We've come here to welcome Paul and James and their families home.
Family is a word that's been used a lot since Monday. Paul and James' families have been constantly in our thoughts: How will they take the terrible news, how are they doing, how will they cope, what can we do for them?
And there's been a lot of talk about that thing we call the CBS family.
That's often a bit of a facile phrase. But we are a kind of family, especially at times like this. Paul and James were part of it, and now Linda and Geri and the kids and the others are, too.
It's an extended family — often dysfunctional, enough batty old aunts in the attic to fill an asylum or a news room or a crew room — but a family.
And now, this seems like a family loss.
As with all families, the passing of loved ones is a time to remember them as they were.
I don't know about you, but I haven't been able to close my eyes this week without seeing Paul laughing at something. I keep hearing the phrase Lovely Jubley. Stupid stuff. I keep remembering wacky endearing incidents.
Once in Sarajevo after we'd been eating microwave packaged food for weeks, he said he had had enough. There were rumors of fresh eggs in Lucavica. "I'm going." he said. And off he went, charming his way through checkpoints and across no man's land, who knows what — and then back, returning with a car full of yaiyah, eggs in Serbo-Croat ... or the national language, as we say.
We'd call it Paul's yaiyah run.
OK, maybe sometimes he'd bring back a few beers, too, but you get the point. Paul's charm worked because it was genuine. Even the belligerents in an ugly civil war would stop shooting because they could see that.
Sanya reminded me last night about Paul's famous bag of "condominiums": ketchup, Tabasco, HP. Every meal it would come out with the same old joke. Every time we'd laugh. It was a life-saver. So was he.
I keep thinking of James, his back killing him, climbing that mountain in Pakistan with those mules. Never, never allowing anyone to carry any of his gear. Cracking jokes.
Or I see him in Balakot, climbing over the flattened ruins, a gaggle of kids in his wake. The kids always went to him. He had a few little sight gags he'd use with them. They'd giggle like he'd just told the funniest joke in the world — and for a moment their misery, and ours, was lifted.
I've been trying to think of a time I ever, ever, heard James complain — and I can't. That's surely a modern record in this crowd, in this business.
We've always amused each other — and maddened each other in this tight little London crowd of ours. This is the day we've always dreaded.
This was always our unspoken horror — and now it's happened.
It's fitting that this little ceremony is taking place at Heathrow. Heathrow has always marked the end of our trips, of our adventures. We'd pick up our gear here, shake hands and go home back to our lives.
This time, James and Paul are not going to home — or a least not in the usual way. This time they're going into each of our homes.
This is a family based on the universal family values of friendship and respect and love.
To their families, and to our friends Paul and James, welcome home.