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"Nic is under no illusions about the dangers ahead" – a personal reflection from Nic Robertson's wife, Margaret
February 4th, 2011
06:18 PM ET

"Nic is under no illusions about the dangers ahead" – a personal reflection from Nic Robertson's wife, Margaret

Nic is under no illusions about the dangers ahead. This is major league bad stuff. I am as worried about him this time as I have ever been, in all our years together.

It could have been written as Nic headed for Egypt last week – a lifetime ago now – but it’s a 2004 diary entry, written as he headed to some other conflict in some other, embattled land.

In fact, it could have written in almost any time during the last 20 years. Egypt is just his latest heart-stoppingly dangerous pinpoint on the map. His office may be in CNN’s shiny, impressive London production center. But Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Darfur, Bosnia – Egypt! - these are the places he usually works, on the ragged outer perimeters of man’s inhumanity to man.

Nic is home one minute, gone the next. These departures are unpredictable, disrespectful of calendars and boundaries, dictated by events unfolding in some faraway place our children quickly add to their geographic lexicon, one that includes many of the world’s flashpoints. In our household, it passes for normal; our lives are built on such extremes. Over time, we have developed our own comforting talismans and rituals. “Travel safe” is a constant mantra, invoked all the time, whether Nic’s heading for the airport or already hanging on the other end of a satellite telephone. I love you, I say, or text or email. Be safe. Travel safe. As if words can make it so. Younger daughter Nicky sometimes puts a small toy in his knapsack, to keep him company on these long trips away from home. Older daughter Lowrie is more pragmatic now. Their father has been in and out of dangerous places all their lives. Regular emails and phone calls help bridge the gaps of his absence. He often sends a photo or brief video clip shot on his cell phone, to give them a sense of where he is.

Our girls have had to find a way to incorporate all of this into the normal threads of their lives –both easier and yet more difficult as they get older and become more aware of what the dangers he faces really are. Bombarded by social media, it is impossible to insulate them once they are old enough to make their own informed interpretations of the news.

With Nic now in Egypt, our kitchen once again feels like a mini-News Central. I lived in Egypt myself for three years in the late 1980’s, working for CBS and before that, spent a year in Beirut during the civil war. I know “shoot the messenger” isn’t just an expression. But the sheer numbers of attacks on journalists in Cairo and in Alexandria, where Nic is, are shocking by any yardstick. The white noise of constant, low level stress in our homescape has been racheted up many decibels in recent days, as violence erupts from TV sets turned to maximum volume all over the house.

Nic and I both worked for CNN in the buildup to the first Gulf War when we met in Jordan in 1990 and we celebrate our 20th anniversary this spring. It is a marriage book-ended by two decades of conflicts: two Iraq wars, Afghanistan, the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, genocide in Rwanda, Somalia, Darfur… a crazy quilt of conflicts, coups, and civil unrest.

Nic and I are still very much a team journalistically, though I swapped the front lines for the computer in the kitchen some years back. We are in constant contact throughout the day—emails, phone calls, text and Skype – even more so since the uprising in Cairo started last week. With communications down or sporadic in Egypt, I’ve been posting on Twitter for him – he calls or sends tweets by text/email or I listen to his live shots and tweet what he’s saying. I post his stories on Facebook, do research, make suggestions - old friends have been especially helpful providing useful contacts for him in Alexandria.

I stay on his schedule not just out of worry, but solidarity, to be available if he needs help. He calls at the end of each day; I go to bed when he does. So I can assure you that he and his team - Todd Baxter, Scott McWhinnie and Saad Abedine - aren’t getting enough sleep. Friends and family call, they email, they message on Facebook, worried for his safety and my sanity. Alexandria may not have experienced the level of violence seen in Tahrir Square, but he and his team have had some hairy moments, including a frightening incident today. But he’s okay for the moment.

And so am I. Because this is what he does. Years ago, when our younger daughter’s teacher asked pupils to say what their parents did for a living, Nicky, then five, proudly told the class, “My daddy fights the enemy.” She later explained what she really meant was that “he goes away to see what bad people have done and then he goes on TV to try to make them stop.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

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Filed under: News
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Marion Roach Smith

    Wonderfully done. A fascinating look into the marriage of two fine, brave journalists.

    February 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sylvia

      What a Team you two make, for our benefit. Nic is the #1 most believable international correspondent out there.Nic is in the hot zones.I think Piers Morgan needs to interview him in the near future. How you, as his wife of 20 years, have made a family and a life of it, is a remarkable testament to your hearts as "one". You deserve an award that no one will ever give out, but we are so fortunate for your allowing "us" to hear from such an amazing wartime corrrespondent.
      Thank YOU for all of us, for keeping him on the screen by taking good care of him. Bless you both.

      February 5, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Chimey Nangchen

    What a blessing you are to your family; and what a blessing your family is to you. Thank you for sharing your remarkable story!

    February 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jayne

    Thank you Margaret for sharing your story. I am a Brit living in America and I love to 'hear' Nick when he is on t.v, makes me feel like I am 'at home'! Thank you both for your dedication & the sacrifices you make, so that we can hear the stories (your children too), it is much appreciated. Stay safe Nick!

    February 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. rose macaskie

    I whatched a bit of Aljazeeras on Egypt a few days ago. They spoke to a famouse blogger and a actor an d two otherEgyptians who wanted a regime change and one of the thing they seemed to mind most about mubaraks regime th eone i remeber them talking of most with most quiet passion, is that they want to have a regime that doesnot take people off to prision without informing their family of where they are. They did not want to live in a regime that could take them off whenever iit wanted to and they also complained about people being tortured in prision. rose macaskie.

    February 4, 2011 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gail

    I've always wondered about Nick's they cope especially during the rough times. Seems there were more rough times than I imagined. Thanks for the article, the reports on CNN, and seeing a photo of the remarkable family.
    Stay safe!

    February 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. nadya

    Thank your sharing your awesomely inspiring story. God bless you and your family. I wish your husband a safe journey wherever he is.

    February 4, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ged

    God bless you and your family for the sacrifices you make that allow Nic to be the eyes and ears of a free society.

    February 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sue

    So eloquently written, so much love and anxiety in those words. God bless you and your family and keep Nic safe wherever he is.

    February 5, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Peace

    We have been watching Aljazera the last few days along with CNN and BBC. Very impress media with great reporting. Thank you Nic, Anderson Cooper, Amanpour and all the great reporters who are bring news to us in America and the world. Thank you Piers Morgan for airing it on your show.With out your presence Mubarak would have killed all those brave people protesting last evening. Long live the Voice of all the oppresses around the world.
    Freedom and Democracy can only live if brutal, corrupt leaders are exposed.

    February 5, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Marion Lee

    I was so pleased to be able to read your story. I am a huge CNN fan and check in several times a day. I have always trusted Nick Robertson's reports and wish him a safe journey home from this nightmare.

    What a wonderful loving and supportive family he has and in that way he is really blessed. Will keep watching and praying for his safety.

    February 5, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rana

    Hey, i accidently saw your an egyptian gurl here @ alexandria and since the demonstrations started am only watching cnn cuz our national tv stations are unreliable enough and they work for the government.
    ive seen nic once when i was peacfully demonstrating here @ alexandria and ive seen him talking to people and i wondered how courageous that is within a crowd of a milion protestor and since 25 january till now i wake up and sleep watching our news on cnn and nic robenson is my reference on what is happening here after my dad ordered me not 2 go out because it became too dangerous .belive it or not i feel that me and nic robertson ,ivan wattson, hala el gorany and andreson copper are friends because am watching them 24 hrs for 12 days 😀
    iwanted 2 thank you and nic because his reports are sincere and honest and best ov all he sends the image as it happens exactly.
    ihope he would go home safe and i would likely 2 say that hurting journalists or forgins here @ alexandria is unlikely 2 happen by alexandrian people becuz we are very friendly and we r quiet used to the presence of tourists and forgins and if any herasments have happened that would be the goverment that is trying to prevent our voices to be heard and steal films and crash cameras..once again on the behalf of the alexandrian people ,me and my friends who r watching nic everyday "THANK YOU NIC " AND GO HOME SAFELY =)

    February 5, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Rana

    oh.and please carry my saluts 2 nic and your wouderful family , thanks for sharing your story ..we shall keep praying for him 2 go home safely 🙂

    February 5, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Eva Beth

    Am a big fan of cnn as am guaranteed that any news that come is total genuine and looking at the correspondents in the selfless way they bring the story to our drawing room makes me wonder on the accommodating nature of their family and Nic Robertson is Blessed to have yours and the children support behind, it shows in the caring nature the truth is shown in his reporting. Thanks for sharing such insight and we pray that he returns home back to your family Safe & Sound. God Bless

    February 5, 2011 at 5:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rita cristina

    Dear Mrs. Robertson,
    now I know why you disappeard from the screen and where you've gone.
    You started your loveaffair with Nic 20 years ago, I started watching CNN on the 28th of February 1990 at 3.00 a. m.
    Thank you for sharing these very private feelings with us. Is that you in the picture?
    During these days I was very much concerned about Hala,Frederick, Ivan,Anderson and with Ben Wedemann in particular.
    All the others will leave, he will be staying there. His family left, maybe they'll use the same methods to stay in touch as you and Nic do.
    I hope everyone of them has a wonderfull family behind like yours. I know the amount of time together is important. You have a minute? you make the best of it.
    The love of your girls, friends and family and our support, will help you to go through these times.
    I sincerely hope CNN will do its share.
    May God be with you all and the People of Egypt and the entire Region.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bill Lettelleir

    "WHO CARE'S".......... Robertson = "talking head" Arnett, Legends in their own minds.....

    February 5, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Anne-O

    It's wonderful to read this and learn more about the critical support system Nic Robertson draws upon in doing his work. Nic has always been special, as a journalist whose sincerity and pure intentions shine through in his reporting. Thank you for sharing the personal backstory with us!

    February 5, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  17. maysoon Otaibi

    Thank you for sharing your story. May God be with him and keep him safe.

    February 8, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Seadog

    Hey Nic, keep looking for someone in the Mid East to tell us how much they love Oblama, you've struck out every time so far.....good luck.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Linda Yan


    Thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us viewers.

    I am a devoted CNNi fan. As I watch Nic, Araw, Ben, Fred and the rest covering the war, I worry about them and their families back home and pray that they will be alright.

    Please let Nic know we US/New York viewers luv him! He is an amazing journalist and in our hearts!

    I'm glad he's in Pakistan on "safer" grounds this week. Luv the behind the scenes of OSL compound. Very interesting!

    All the BEST! You guys are in our thoughts always!!~Lin

    May 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  20. David Gunckel

    This old friend from Charlottesville enjoyed the article so much. What a great story about a great family. Thanks Penny!

    June 28, 2012 at 1:58 am | Report abuse | Reply

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