The Power of Friendship Over Grief
Photo: Rob Howard
Bob Woodruff and David Bloom, two well-known TV journalists, and their wives, Lee and Melanie, had that rare thing, a perfect two-couple friendship. But when both men became casualties of the war they were covering, Lee and Melanie learned the amazing extent to which the worst of times can bring out the best in a friend.Melanie Bloom was running late, as usual. Her husband called from their table at the black-tie charity dinner she was racing to. "Hurry up," he said. "You're about to meet your new best friend."
The Blooms were seated with Bob and Lee Woodruff. "Spot on, it was like we had known each other our whole lives," says Melanie of the night nine years ago in Washington, D.C. "Instant rapport," Lee agrees. The two women rearranged the chairs so they could sit next to each other while their husbands, David Bloom, an NBC White House correspondent, and Bob Woodruff, the ABC justice correspondent, were left to fend for themselves.
Melanie and Lee had a lot in common. Three years apart—Mel was 35 and Lee 38 when they met—both were married to up-and-coming, extremely driven network TV correspondents. And each had two children, with more on the way—amazingly, both ending up with twin girls. It may have been their differences, however, that made them work so well together. "In our dynamic duo, I was the Cagney to Mel's Lacey, the Rhoda to her Mary, the Rizzo to her doe-eyed Sandy," Lee writes in her new book, In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing, coauthored with Bob. "There was an innocence about Mel that made me want to protect her." While Lee worked in public relations, Melanie put her energies into volunteering at her girls' school. "Lee is an adrenaline junkie and thrives on controlled chaos," says Melanie. "She's happiest multitasking, rushing off to her son's soccer game, then on to a dinner party, adjusting her daughter's hearing aids—and keep in mind she's been up since 4 A.M. My idea of bliss is a snow day when we can turn off the phones and hunker down." Within each marriage, there was a similar yin-yang. When Bob Woodruff is asked the best way to describe how he and Melanie differed from David and Lee, he answers, "Uh, we're mellow?"
Living only ten minutes from each other, the couples soon spent as much time together as possible, playing tennis and games of Taboo, gathering for family dinners. With their husbands increasingly on the road, says Melanie, "here was someone who knew what it was like to be alone, to handle life decisions and tuck in everyone at night without having him there."
Although the Woodruffs relocated to London in 2000 because Bob was working as a foreign correspondent, two years later, the families reunited in New York City when both men became anchors—David at NBC's Weekend Today show and Bob for ABC's weekend World News Tonight. As hard-core journalists, however, they still shared a passion for covering challenging stories in the field, and when the United States went to war in Iraq, each said yes to becoming embedded with American troops for their respective networks. Again Melanie and Lee found themselves together many weekends, this time in their suburban Westchester homes. In an eerie and tragic symmetry, two calls in the dead of night would change their lives and bind them together forever.