By John Larson, NBC News
The first day I met Susan Adams I thought she was sweet. I was pretty much wrong. The second day, I thought Susan was unforgiving. Very wrong. By the third day, we were good friends and our friendship grew with time.
In 1996 I arrived in Hawaii for a story and discovered, much to my embarrassment, that I had left my credit card and identification in Los Angeles. So my first introduction with Susan Adams went like this, "Hi, I'm John. Can you loan me $600?" She looked at me with her, "I think this guy is probably a hopeless loser" look, but gave me the money. We began working, and by the first evening she was upset with our four hired crewmembers. She thought they were taking poor pictures for our story. The next evening, she fired all of them.
In 11 years I never once saw Susan Adams bored or resigned.
Susan loved her daughters and friends most of all, but when it came to work she loved great photographers, editors and stories that cut deep. Over time, I saw her work and life flow together. Like many true things, it was a bit complicated. While she sometimes seemed shy or defended, she was drawn to people. Time after time, I saw people she met in stories become members of her private, extended family, whether they knew it or not. She was absorbed by their details, families, struggles, and victories. She earned their trust. In short, she cared about them all. A lot.
She brought this to every story she did.
When Susan met someone, she would soon be discussing things that mattered -- children, marriages, real problems. Long after our stories were over, Susan was still talking with those who called about their work, insurance and medical issues and kids. She helped one we'd covered move. She helped more than one change doctors. She helped with family disputes. We did a story about a woman in Indonesia. Susan was still having dinners with her five years later. We did a story about evangelists in Afghanistan. Susan shared her faith with someone in that story for the next six years. When a criminal we had covered died, Susan secretly bought his burial plot. When she learned no one was coming to his burial, she bought a plane ticket and was the only one there. So, it made perfect sense that when Susan herself was dying, a woman she had "covered" was helping at Susan's side.
In Susan's way, her stories were never really over. And as time grew short, I realized, they were all part of one great story.
Susan was a wonderful journalist. We didn't know it at the time, but I suppose we were all part of her story. So, while those of us who knew her well will miss her terribly, knowing the way Susan Adams did things, if it things could have been the other way around, she'd probably be missing us even more.
Read Susan Adams' piece on a survivor's chance to confront an offender here.