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Morgan Radford: To say this year was 'unexpected' is the understatement of the century … and I certainly wasn't spared.

While the NBC News correspondent didn’t get to celebrate her dream wedding, Radford reflects on the blessing she did get – one she didn’t know she needed.
Image: Today - Season 68
Morgan Radford on NBC's "TODAY" show on Feb. 6, 2019.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

If you had asked me just 10 months ago (in fact, Mika Brzezinski did ask me 10 months ago), what my life would look like today, I would have told you that I lived in New York City’s Upper West Side in a cozy 1-bedroom flat, that I would have been married to the love of my life who I met 13 years ago in my college dorm, and that this month, we would spend our first Christmas together thumbing through a wedding album filled with the once-in-a-lifetime memories we made during our dream destination wedding just 6 months earlier.

Spoiler alert: none of that happened.

It became clear in February that this new virus I was reporting on was far worse than our government leaders and healthcare professionals had initially imagined. My favorite aunt from Jamaica got Covid-19 and wound up in the hospital. My baby brother caught the virus, his body covered in chills. One of my favorite colleagues, an audio engineer, was counted among the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who lost their lives – adding to a staggering death toll that we would later find out was nine times higher than the number of those who died in the 9/11 attacks.

Needless to say, it didn’t feel like a time to celebrate. Anything.

And yet, of course, deep down I was personally disappointed; I was looking forward to celebrating a love that had taken me a little while to find. He was an old college friend I had met more than a decade ago, who became a brand-new love. He was something completely different and yet completely familiar at the same time; something far closer to the love and solidness I’d witnessed between my own parents growing up. He was someone who told me he was proud of me when I raced out of the house to cover a voter intimidation story, who wiped my tears when the world got too tough, and who laughed quietly when I begged him to dress up like Drake for Halloween. Finally, I had found someone who saw me – all of me – and loved what he saw.

NBC's Morgan Radford and fiance David Williams celebrated their engagement over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019.Morgan Radford

And so while we were excited to celebrate a marriage we had both longed for and prayed about, we got something entirely different – something I didn’t know I needed.

We traded in a flowing wedding gown and dark tuxedo for an apartment together, our first time living in the same city since college.

I swapped out my bachelorette pad for an incredibly diverse, vibrant neighborhood where we watch our neighbor’s son take his first wobbly ride on a new bike.

Morgan Radford and her fiance moved to Harlem in 2020.Shane Samuels

And while we haven’t exchanged vows – we celebrated our would-be wedding date with a virtual zoom call for our families and friends to meet each other online, since they couldn’t meet in person.

But I guess more than all that, I got empathy.

I’ve gotten to be part of a collective resilience that has only made this country – and me – stronger. I’ve been forced to slow down, redefine and reimagine. Because that’s what this pandemic is, isn’t it? It’s an extension of the inevitable need for redefinition in our lives – self-imposed or otherwise. How do we learn to grieve the loss of people, communities and celebrations – and still charge forth with hope? It’s a reminder of the kinds of challenges – and healing – we are all searching for in varying degrees.

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After all, my disappointments this year pale in comparison to the real-life disappointments many people face every day, and if I’m honest, even to the real grief I have experienced in my own life. People have lost their spouses and jobs; promotions they’ve always dreamed of and opportunities they’ve earned; pregnancies they’ve prayed for and families they’ve counted on. Which is to say, many of us have experienced real grief in our personal lives far greater than canceled weddings and changed expectations. The beauty about this year is that while our grief is collective – so, too, can be our hope.

From family zoom calls to virtual game nights – we’ve seen the world connect with a level of creativity that this generation has never seen. We’ve been given the gift of time; time that we may not have had otherwise.

And as for what’s next for me, personally?

I continue to take thoughtful steps toward making the things I can control more secure.

I continue to work harder than ever at my job, so that I can fulfill a role of public service that makes me feel alive – and connected.

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And I continue to show gratitude – to a God and a Universe that led me to find my person – even if it means we have to wait a little longer to officially tie the knot.

I wish I could tell you that everything went according to plan – but instead I have a more textured, beautiful truth.

And as any good journalist will tell you, truth is always the most interesting story.