In a celebration of life on a bright, sunlit spring day, NBC News correspondent David Bloom was praised and remembered Wednesday at a memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, a gathering of relatives, friends and colleagues who recalled a skinny bespectacled kid; a loving husband and father; a journalist of uncommon conviction and, in the words of one of his brothers, a man who “attacked life with a passion and a zeal that few of us can duplicate.”
Bloom, who was traveling with the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division outside Baghdad, Iraq, died April 6 of an apparent pulmonary embolism. A 39-year-old husband and father of three, he was the second American journalist to die in Iraq since the war began.
His death elicited a wave of emotion from fellow journalists and the public, emotion evident Wednesday afternoon at the cathedral less than a block from his office at NBC.
“This community mourns your loss,” said the Rev. Matthew McGinness, a longtime friend of the Bloom family. “We mourn our loss. ... David Bloom was always seeking the truth, always probing and digging deeper for the answer.”
New York’s archbishop, Cardinal Edward Egan, recalled Bloom’s attending Sunday Mass there after his “Today” show duties. “I had the pleasure of giving him communion,” the cardinal said.
“I will remember David in prayer frequently over the years to come in this cathedral in which he so often conversed with his God.”
Parts of the funeral were shown on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel. New York Gov. George Pataki, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, ABC anchor Peter Jennings, CBS newsman Ed Bradley and much of NBC’s on-air staff were among the mourners.
Tom Brokaw, the NBC News anchor, said Bloom “had a thousand great ideas, none better than the ‘Bloommobile,’ which transported him and transformed war reporting. It was the instrument, but David was the essential element — a journalist at the peak of his powers.
"Just as Edward R. Murrow transformed radio reporting during World War II," Brokaw said, "63 years later, our David transformed television reporting by taking you deep inside an armored division as it swept across the desert ... taking the viewer to the story, not the other way around.
“David was ... the Ernie Pyle of his generation, a newsman’s journalist. David was the apotheosis of a warrior journalist. He was our first responder, and his most important audience — the American people — cherished him in that role,” Brokaw said, citing the 37,000 e-mails of condolence sent to NBC since Bloom died.
Besides the customary music attending a Catholic Mass — “Ave Maria” was the offertory — the services included a blues performance by Wynton Marsalis and a trio who walked slowly through the cathedral, recalling a New Orleans funeral processional. The mood was transformed when the group played a spirited reading of “Down by the Riverside.”
Also eulogized by two brothers, Jim and John, and his best friend, Bloom was described as a man who had battled personal problems in recent years and was at peace with the prospect of dying in Iraq.
‘Here I am ... ’
Hours before he died, he wrote an e-mail to Melanie saying the experience of covering the war had transformed him, leading him to realize that nothing mattered more than his relationship with her and their daughters, said older brother John.
He quoted Bloom’s last message to his wife: “Here I am, supposedly at the peak of professional success, and I can frankly care less.”
“Baby brother” James Bloom — his voice uncannily similar to his late sibling’s — recalled “a skinny kid with Buddy Holly-like glasses ... a brilliant debater,” a tennis player who “in spite of a horrible second serve and a backhand that needed work desperately ... was always my most formidable opponent.”
Speaking to David Bloom’s three daughters, James Bloom told them how “you three girls have something very special, something that most boys and girls don’t have: your own guardian angel, watching down from heaven every day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.