As a journalist, there is certainly an adrenaline rush when news breaks. It might even be fair to say my profession isn’t without a small degree of a sadistic news sense — “bad news” seemingly drives my industry. But no one wanted Madiba to leave us. The world was not ready to lose such a perfectly human leader of our time.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was 95 years old, and he was in ailing health; we knew it was a matter of time and just about every news organization in the world had a planned obituary prepared, if not the video already cut and edited. But I want to make it crystal clear—I am very upset that the world has lost such an inspiration. Who among us could spend 27 years in a brutal prison, sleeping on the floor, and come out so forgiving on the other side? Who among us could be so human to have relationship problems, three divorces and be so candid about the issues they’ve faced? Who could have the foresight to see how a rugby team could unite a nation during the World Cup? Madiba was a leader for more than South Africa. Madiba was a man every single person on this earth should emulate, should respect and should love. I’ve admired him since I first learned his name in middle school social studies. (Florida public schools actually taught something, who knew?)
I worked on a story about the Soweto Gospel Choir, an amazing group from near Johannesburg who have performed for Mandela before. Every one of them said they had never been in the presence of a more humble, kindhearted and sweet man. It was always a dream of mine to meet the man who guided such an amazing global transformation, but I knew it was never a real possibility. But still, even at 95 years young, Madiba kept his focus on healing, both internally and globally. Few have lived and touched so many in their life.
No, the world was not ready to lose Madiba, nor do I think it ever would be or could be truly “ready” to lose such an inspiration. Know that many journalists reporting this story do so with heavy hearts; it would be a lie if I said I didn’t cry when I heard the news.
Rest in peace, Tata. Every person in this universe will forever live in your debt.