Remembering Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, points from the podium at the FleetCenter during the Democratic National Convention in Boston, July 28, 2004.
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, points from the podium at the FleetCenter during the Democratic National Convention in Boston, July 28, 2004.

By Alison Schwartz Dorfman, who covered the Edwards campaign in 2003-2004.

When I heard about the death of Elizabeth Edwards yesterday, along with the rest of the country, I was very saddened. 

Over the years we have all gotten to know Elizabeth for many different reasons - the wife of a presidential and vice presidential candidate, the mother who lost her 16 year old son Wade, the woman who opted to have two more children at age 48 and 50, the woman who had breast cancer, the woman whose husband had an extramarital affair, and of course the woman who is known for her courage and resilience.

While most people got to know her from afar, I was very fortunate to get to spend a lot of quality time with Elizabeth Edwards.

In 2003-2004, I was the off-air reporter for CBS News covering then Senator John Edwards. Like anyone who covers campaigns can tell you, you spend a lot of time with the candidates and their families. I met Elizabeth in the early days of the campaign when we were trekking through Iowa.

Being the New Yorker that I am, at first I admit it was a hard transition. I had never been on the road for an extended period of time for my job, and here I was in freezing cold Iowa with a group of people I had never met before. I was told I would be gone until Edwards was in the race. At the time, we all thought that we'd be home pretty soon. But as the days went on, Edwards was gaining momentum and we all knew this guy wasn't going anywhere.

Besides the other reporters covering the campaign, one of the people who was an everyday fixture for us was Elizabeth Edwards. Since we started off as such a small group, Elizabeth chatted with the reporters all of the time. Of course we'd question her about her husband's policies and why she thought he should be the next president, but we also chatted about personal stuff. 

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Single at the time, we'd always joke around about guys and if I was dating anyone. She really acted like a typical mother would act. I also got to see what a devoted mother she was. At the time, Jack and Emma Claire were 4 and 6 years old. They used to come on the campaign bus and hang around the reporters. It was so nice to see Elizabeth playing with her little kids, singing with them, and chasing them all around. They were so adorable - it's so crazy to think that now they are 10 and 12, and already lost their mother. Her other daughter Cate also spent a lot of time with us. At the time she was a student at Princeton and it was so nice to see how proud Elizabeth was of her oldest daughter. After all, who wouldn't be?

When the 2004 election ended, I followed her story in the news and through some of the reporters I kept in touch with. We all talked about her cancer, her family, and her husband's future aspirations for 2008. Because we weren't sure about the seriousness of her cancer, many people questioned whether John Edwards would seek the presidency. But, knowing Elizabeth, we all assumed she would support her husband's decision to run again. So, as a political producer at The Early Show, I got to see her several times in 2007-2008.

I specifically remember seeing her at the New Hampshire primary when Harry Smith did in the interview with Mr. and Mrs. Edwards. This time, I had just gotten married and of course, I was so happy to tell Elizabeth in person. She knew me as a "kid on the bus" in 2004, and now I was a wife and planning to start my own family! A few months later I got pregnant, and you can be sure I made sure Elizabeth heard the great news.

As my family and friends know, I will always cherish my experience as an off air reporter. You get to see the country and meet people that you otherwise would not have the opportunity to meet. And yes, one of those people was Elizabeth Edwards. I am proud to have known her. I am confident that the strength and determination she showed in her life will carry over to her children. My sincere condolences to the Edwards family.