Saturday, June 30, 2007

Last-ever interview with Charles Schulz

Priorities Magazine

Just prior to his death and in failing health, Charles Schulz still wasn't much interested in talking about his past. The creator and only artist and writer of the world-famous Peanuts cartoon strip believed he had too much to do. First and foremost, Schulz had planned on getting healthy so he could enjoy his retirement with his family and friends.

"I recently had a stroke," Schulz said in his California home during one of his last-ever interviews. "I'm working hard every day to get my health back, but it's a long battle."

A battle he eventually succumbed to on Saturday, February 12th. It was in his home, with his family around him, when Schulz peacefully kissed this world goodbye. And, almost as if on his own terms, as word spread of his passing, newspapers worked to find a spot for the news just as they prepared to feature the last-ever Peanuts cartoon.

One of Schulz's colleagues believes that his work ethic and love of his characters and audience is what the Peanuts artist will always be remembered for.

"It's an amazing feat what Charles did," Bil Keane, artist and creator of the Family Circus cartoon said. "I can't think of any other cartoonist who has been 100 percent responsible for his work over such a long period of time."

Along with a professional relationship, Keane and Schulz created a bond that went beyond the ink and pages of comic strips.

"I was personal friends with Charles for years," said Keane. "He was one of the most genuine people I have ever known."

While his health had slowed him down in the months prior to his death, Schulz never lost his vigor and enthusiasm for Peanuts. In January, Schulz finished his latest Peanuts creation, another prize for the world to enjoy.

"Production on Pied Piper Charlie Brown has just wrapped up," Schulz said. "I think it's one of our best works."

That was quite a statement from the man responsible for the most widely recognized comic strip characters in history. Since its debut soon after his return from World War II, Peanuts has appeared in newspapers in 75 countries worldwide. On a daily basis, its work could always be traced back to Schulz. And when Connie Boucher, a housewife from San Francisco, received Schulz's okay to try her hand at merchandising the Peanuts characters, one member of the gang, a little dog called Snoopy became a household name. But after some 50 years, Schulz began preparation to say goodbye to the Peanuts comic strip for the last time.

"I certainly enjoyed doing Peanuts," Schulz said, "but it's time to move on."

Schulz's decision to cease the publishing of the comic strip was easy because, he said, it really wasn't his decision in the first place. Schulz's five children and two stepchildren made a pact with one another years ago that when their father could no longer create Peanuts, the comic strip would end.

"They came to me a long time ago and said no one should ever do Peanuts except me," Schulz said. "I was somewhat surprised by how strongly they felt about their decision."

Family was always an important aspect of Charles Schulz. Born November 26, 1922, to Carl and Dena Schulz of St. Paul, Minnesota, Charles learned at an early age what family devotion was all about. His father, who owned a barber shop during the Great Depression, not only found a means to take care of his own family, but also found funds to offer work to others. He did so at a time when work and cash were at an all-time low in this country.

Also during the Depression, his father managed to scrape together enough cash to finance young Charles' dreams of becoming an artist. Charles attended the Art Instructions School during that time, but the shy and nervous boy managed just a C+ in his first class.

Not deterred, however, Charles forged ahead through his classes, improving day by day and week by week. At the same time, the Schulz family was forced to sell their home and take residence up in an apartment above a drug store. Schulz' mother's diagnosis with cancer necessitated the move. Each day the pharmacist would dispense pain medication to ease the struggles of her illness. For the next several years, however, Charles was forced to watch his mother deteriorate until she passed away.

"That was a terrible time in our lives," Schulz said. "She was just so sick. It was so awful." Within days of being drafted into service to fight in World War II, Schulz' mother lost her valiant battle with cancer. Amazingly, it was while serving in the military that Schulz began to hone his skills as a cartoonist.

"I had some good friends in the service," said Schulz. "So when they saw I could do cartoons, they began asking me to draw silly little cartoons on the envelopes of their letters."

One dear friend, known now as just Sergeant Hegameyer, often asked Schulz to decorate his letters before he shipped them off to the states to his bride. While Schulz was decorating letters for others, he received daily correspondence from his recently widowed father.

Wartime was certainly not all about cartoons, though. Schulz earned the reputation as a hard-nosed military man and soon became a staff sergeant and the leader of a machine-gun squad.
"The time in the service was a strange time," Schulz said. "I learned a lot about myself and became more confident in my work and became more focused on my goals."

"I always knew I was going to be an artist, but the time in the war gave me that extra push."
Schulz returned home and landed two jobs, one as a writer for a comic strip and one as an art teacher at the school he had attended years earlier. It was during that time he met a good man named Charlie Brown. Schulz worked with Brown and developed a strong friendship with him. He also came to know a red-headed young woman who broke his heart. Her persona would follow in the form of a character in Peanuts.

"Once I started Peanuts, I knew that's what I would do for the rest of my life," said Schulz. "I had a lot of confidence in my work at that point of my life, and I can't think of anything else I ever wanted to do."

"Some people want to be doctors, others lawyers," Schulz said. "For me, I always wanted to be an artist and was driven to do so."

Schulz also encouraged his children to seek happiness in their careers. His youngest daughter, Jill Transki, told People magazine after her father's death, "He always instilled in us how essential it is to enjoy the process of life, regarding every moment and every act as having some importance."

He also felt keeping control of Peanuts was important. In fact, when publishers requested Peanuts focus less on Snoopy, Schulz quietly said no, and continued in the direction he felt the strip should go.

"I always felt the best way to keep the dream of Peanuts alive was by keeping that kind of control of the comic strip."

And while he may never again sign his name to a Peanuts comic strip, Schulz clearly grew to understand his place in history and American culture and remained amazed by the attention. When he announced his retirement, the man they call Sparky was deluged with well wishes. And when it was revealed he was sick, the cards and letters only increased.
What can I possibly say about this? First, to even interview Charles Schulz was an honor. To conduct the last interview he ever granted prior to his death is humbling. I don't know anyone who hasn't ready the Peanuts cartoons. He was a true gentleman who made the world a better place.

Roddick: Talented with a Temper

Player Magazine
Spring 2004

"I think it's weird when I'm reading a magazine or watching Sports Center, and there I am," Roddick says. "It's all sort of surreal.
No, Andy, it's very real.

Last year Roddick catapulted from rising star to full-fledged phenomenon by winning the U.S. Open. Better yet, he finished 2003 ranked numero uno worldwide. That combination earned Roddick Player of the Year honors from just about every tennis publication and organization in the world. It also grossed him more than $6 million in winnings and who knows how much more through endorsements. So how did Roddick celebrate?

"I bought a big Escalade so I could hang out with my friends when we go out," Roddick says. "I have a nice Lexus SL that I won, but it only has two seats so it's a little impractical."

During his quest last year to capture the U.S. Open, TV camera crews seemed almost as interested in his then-girlfriend, Mandy Moore, as they did with the fireworks on the court. Although the couple is no longer an item - a story that generated headlines in its own right - Roddick is still under the impression that the paparazzi aren't on to him.

"That's not really a problem," Roddick says. "It gets a little tough at tournaments, but it isn't much of an issue outside of tennis yet."

Sure, Andy, keep telling yourself that. Here's the truth ... women want you and men want to be like you. No matter where he goes, the press shadows him like a hawk: Roddick at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, Roddick with Bill Walton at the ESPN Zone in Las Vegas, Roddick at a major movie premiere. Events like these and a whole lot more regularly receive full-court coverage if Mr. 152 mph shows up.

But behind the good looks and the killer serve, there's the story of a driven competitor who is not only establishing his own considerable legacy but also happens to be carrying the future of American tennis on his shoulders. Now that Pete Sampras has retired, fans are looking for a new hero to latch onto.

Andy Roddick is that guy.

ESPN has called Roddick the man who will not only rescue tennis in the States, but will end up owning it as well. This observation takes into account his winning ways and factors in a key element of the Roddick persona: bad boy flair.

During the 2002 U.S. Open when Roddick asked an umpire, "Are you a complete moron?!" rowdy tennis fans knew they had their guy - a John McEnroe with a blistering serve.

In a first-round match at the Franklin Templeton Classic in Phoenix last March, Roddick broke his racquet and received a reprimand. This episode came after the umpire overruled a line call on break point. The umpire not only refused to replay the point but ended up slapping a delay point against Roddick for taking too long to resume play.

Let's face it. Americans love a rebel.

Consider the glowing memories that Johnny Mac and his old nemesis Jimmy Connors bring to mind. When people think of those two American icons, they immediately think of the high-energy, fist-pumping, in-your-face attitudes both brought to the game. It's the same sort of mojo that fans get to see when Roddick kicks it into overdrive.

The explosive side to his personality is nothing new. Roddick has a reputation for snapping at officials and peppering his play with colorful, not-ready-for-prime-time comments. Some competitors have gone so far as to complain about what they call Roddick's "arrogant attitude," his on-court rage, and his public outbursts with tennis officials. For his part, Roddick just shrugs off the criticism and plays his game.

"What I don't like is when an official anticipates a call," he says. "I've learned over the last few years that the way I react to a call can have a huge impact on the way I play. I make sure now I have a shorter memory out there."

Away from the court, Roddick's superstar lifestyle is a given. Over the last few years, he has developed tight relationships with A-list celebrities, including members of the Dave Matthews Band. A longtime fan of the group, Roddick catches the band's shows whenever he gets the chance. Of course if you're Andy Roddick, you don't stand in line to buy your tickets or bring your binoculars so you can actually see what's happening on stage from the nose bleed section.
"I met the guys a few years ago when I was at a tournament in Cincinnati," Roddick says. "Our schedules have matched up a lot lately so I've hung out with them and go to the gigs whenever it's possible."

That closeness even extends to their TV appearances. Roddick and the band teamed for a stint on Saturday Night Live.

With his stellar 2003 season now one for the history books, Roddick has his sights set on an international tournament that isn't even part of the pro circuit - the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. "If I could win only one tournament this year," Roddick says, "it would be the Olympics."

Since 1988, when the International Olympic Committee began allowing professional tennis players to compete, Americans such as Andre Agassi, Lindsay Davenport, and Venus Williams have won gold. Roddick wants to join that elite club.

"With regular tournaments, if you don't do well you know you'll be back in a year," he says. "With the Olympics it's only every four years so you really have to bring your A game."

If he does, Roddick's summer may have a golden glow.


Anna Benson, wife of Pirates pitcher Kris Benson, talks about one of sport's oldest taboos: pre-game sex.

PLAYER Magazine

April 2004

Since this story ran in PLAYER, Benson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.


Not the kind Pete Rose faces but ones that are far more personal. The wife of Pittsburgh Pirate ace Kris Benson has made it her mission to take on one of sport's oldest taboos: No sex before a game.

"I hate it.There's no scientific proof that sex is going to hurt your pitching performance,"says Anna.

But she's fighting an uphill battle that dates back decades. Advocates of abstaining prior to competition are legion and range from trainers to coaches to athletes.

But Anna persists.

"Each player has his own ritual, and Kris's is no sex when he pitches. It pisses me off because if you tell me I can't have something then that just makes me want it more.I like having sex with Kris. We've had some pretty nasty fights over this issue."

Believe it or not, this Georgia peach is the mother of three children.

The upside to her personal crusade is that she believes she has found the cure to the curse facing every pro athlete's wife: groupies. Her simple solution: sex.

"Sex is healthy and wonderful," Anna says. "And we like it. But we do it with each other, and we stay within the promises we made when we were married."

Sex is not only healthy for the Bensons, it's also a personal adventure, one that Kris and Anna don't mind talking about.

"If what we have to say helps other couples, then that's a good thing,"Anna says.
So what do the Bensons do to keep their sex life so exciting? Pretty much whatever they feel like.

"We like video taping ourselves while having sex,"Anna says."It's a lot of fun making sex tapes. We share them only with each other. I mean, what guy doesn't want to videotape himself and his woman having sex? All men want to."

Another of the couple's aphrodisiacs is phone sex.

"Every time Kris goes out of town,one of the first things we do is get on the phone and have phone sex. It's still the two of us. The only difference is a phone and a movie going on."

Then, of course, there is the more obvious solution.

"Sometimes I'll fly to whatever city where the Pirates are playing, and if Kris isn't pitching then we have sex."

These road trips are a part of a nationwide quest for the couple.

"We want to christen every city that Kris has played in during his professional career," Anna says. "We have a ways to go,but that's something we want to do. We haven't even done it at the new stadium in Pittsburgh [PNC Park], but I'm sure we'll get that done."

The Pirates'old home, legendary Three Rivers Stadium, was site of one of the couple's more bizarre encounters.

"We hadn't had sex for a few days so we got into the back seat of our SUV in the parking lot at Three Rivers and while we were doing it fans were beating on the windows," Anna says.

The vehicle had tinted windows so the Bensons continued their business.

"We finished screwing then Kris got out and greeted the fans. Hell, I'm not stopping sex with my man so some overzealous fan can have an autograph!"

And no matter how much energy he may exert during the game, Kris knows he has a follow-up performance when he steps off the field.

"After Kris has pitched in a game, we're usually half naked before we get home and then we get after it. We've even pulled over and had sex on the way home."

So the next time you see Kris Benson giving it his all on the mound for the Pirates, remember ... his night is still very young.

I love Anna! She is great! She is very sexual, but also a very intelligent woman who has helped in negotiating Kris' contracts. She is also very interested in helping those less fortunate than herself. She has donated countless hours and money to children's needs and other charities. But Anna is also Anna. I met her at a party and she was a riot, full of energy and not shy about anything.

Chris Meloni 2005

Chris Meloni's hard work pays off

Brentwood Magazine

Spring 2005

WHIPPING THROUGH NEW YORK city traffic in the back seat of a cab, Christopher Meloni is tired. He's just concluded a whirlwind weekend with his family at their Connecticut home.Now he's heading to their Manhattan home to prepare for the upcoming week's worth of shooting for NBC's Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit. This weekend included a birthday bash for Meloni's 1-year-old son. (He also has a 4-year-old daughter).

"Splitting time is a bit of a pain," Meloni says."But the days are long, 14 to 15 hours sometimes, so it wouldn't make much sense to commute up to Connecticut every night. I'd get home just in time to turn around and come back."

Such is the life of prime-time television's It Guy. Known as the hardnosed but sensitive detective Elliot Stabler on SVU, Meloni doesn't mind the long hours and so-called inconveniences of being a full-fledged star.

"I'm having a blast, really,"Meloni says."I mean for so many years you put up with so much shit to get to a point where your work is appreciated and in many ways, recognized. Then it happens and it's like,'Wow!'"

Meloni remembers the day that "wow" occurred for the first time. It happened at a recent New York Knicks game. Meloni, his wife, Sherman, and a small group of long-time buddies sat courtside during the game and SVU fans kept approaching him for autographs. Security guards surrounded Meloni and his friends and his image was even flashed on the large overhead screen.

"Sherman and I looked at each other and just laughed," Meloni says. "It was just a weird, surreal moment. But I have no complaints."

While Meloni doesn't have any real complaints, he does admit to some confusion over autograph-seekers. He doesn't mind giving his autograph and has a reputation for being approachable and gracious. After all, these are the people who make it possible for him to do what he loves. He just believes his brief time with fans could be better spent.

"Sometimes when I get approached for an autograph, I just say, 'Screw the autograph-let me buy you a drink. Tell me about yourself. Let's hang out and talk.'"

Meloni believes conversation is much more interesting than a piece of paper with his or anyone's name scrawled across it.

"It's always been kind of weird to me because when you give someone an autograph,you're looking down at a piece of paper and once you sign it the person moves on," he says. "What good is that?"

Meloni has learned a lot about signing autographs. SVU dominates its Tuesday prime-time slot and has become the most watched of all Law & Order shows.The secret to SVU's success is no secret at all, according to Meloni. It has to do with the characters who create the characters.

"We're real fortunate to have such a unique cast," Meloni says. "I think that comes out in the show."

Meloni is, of course, talking about himself and Mariska Hargitay, both of whom are experienced character actors; Richard Belzer, who began his career as a standup comic; and edgy rap star Ice-T.

"Everyone brings something special to the cast," Meloni says.

"Richard is a very intelligent thinker. Ice gives us legitimate street smarts.Mariska and I are more the atypical actors. It's a great blend."

SVU continues to carry NBC on Tuesday nights, allowing producers to tackle the characters' personal lives this season-which Meloni and others have enjoyed. Character exploration is handled with kid gloves. Personal issues remain secondary to the storylines, giving viewers just enough to make them tune in for more.

"I think the producers, writers and directors on our show are very astute to what people want to see,"Meloni says."You'll get bits and pieces of what's going on in Stabler's life, but you'll never see an episode devoted to one character going off someplace that doesn't fit into what the show is based on."

"Our viewers are ultimately most interested in seeing these people solve [cases] and prosecute the bad guys."

And as long as that continues, Chris Meloni will continue to be the It Guy.

You have to just love this guy. This wasn't so much an interview as it was just shooting the bull with a cool guy. If you didn't know Chris was a star, you'd think he could be anything from a school teacher to a blue color worker or attorney. It's too bad there are n't more people like Chris in the television industry.

Chris Meloni: Player Magazine



Player Magazine

He's saved lives, he's arrested bad guys, and he's helped solve one of the nation's most notorious murder mysteries. He's also snapped more than his share of necks, and he broke them all with a smile on his face. Fortunately for Meloni's friends and family, these experiences haven't warped him off-screen.

At least that's how Meloni sees it as he weaves his motorcycle through Manhattan traffic and handles a phone interview during his day off from NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which co-stars Richard Belzer, Ice-T, and Mariska Hargitay.

He laughs about the confusion over his on-screen persona. "I did kill a lot of people," says Meloni of his portrayal of inmate Chris Keller on the HBO prison drama Oz.

"People didn't know what I was," Meloni says. "Some people thought I was really like that character [Oz's Keller]. Others knew me better and recognized that I was a pretty decent guy."

Meloni's current role as Detective Elliot Stabler on SVU, one of the more popular Law & Orderspin-offs, has squelched any questions concerning his personal life.

"I like Elliot," Meloni says. "He's tough, but he's got a soft side to him. He loves his family and has concern for the people he works with, but he'll kick ass when he needs to. How can you not like a guy like that?"

Due in part to his success on SVU, Meloni landed the plum part of former Los Angeles Detective Mark Fuhrman in the made-for-TV movie A Murder in Greenwich. The movie focuses on the gruesome bludgeoningof 15-year-old Martha Moxley in 1975 and the subsequent attempts to nail down her killer. Twenty-five years after the fact, a jury convicted Michael Skakel, a relative of the Kennedy family, of the brutal crime.

Says Meloni of the case, "It was an intriguing story more than anything else."

This recurring series of dark storylines recently led Meloni to seek something lighter - a stint on the medical comedy Scrubs.

Despite his tough guy reputation, he welcomes the change of pace.

Says Meloni, "I love comedy. It's always great to make people laugh, and after being on Ozand SVU, I needed to lighten the mood"

Chris Meloni is one of those cool guys you want to just hang out with. We've talked a few times since these interviews and he's always asking about my sons and is just down to earth. He is someone I hope to catch a Yankee game with one day or maybe go fishing out on Lake Zoar in our home state of Connecticut.

Ben Vereen

Ben Vereen Gets 'Wicked' on stage

Brentwood MagazineSummer 2005

Ben Vereen is on a mission.

These days, the legendary actor and musician isn't as interested in talking about dance or music. Instead, Vereen wants to teach people about the gift of life.

"I want people to understand that the cup isn't half full or half empty,"Vereen explains from his New York City hotel."People need to know that the cup is always 100 percent full! We must understand what a wonderful gift this world is and this life we have is. It's all such a tremendous gift."

It hasn't always been this way for Vereen, who is best known for his role as "Chicken George" in the award-winning, 1970s mini-series, Roots. In 1992, Vereen's career and life took an unexpected and near-fatal turn when he was involved in a horrifying car crash that led to a devastating stroke.

"I won't say it was necessarily a good thing,"Vereen says today of the crash that almost ended his life. "But I will say the things I learned following that experience have made me a much better person. I believe everything happens for a reason."

Vereen's message is about "showing up for life," and he shares it as often as possible.Whether it's with children at a school or adults attending a star-studded gala or corporate event, the ideas are the same.

"Believe in miracles. Expect miracles in your life," he says."Trust that there is a power greater than yourself who will hear you when you cry out for help. Expect angels, and accept how they show themselves."

Vereen believes that throughout his ordeal, angels came to him in all shapes and sizes and included the many people who surrounded him.

"I was helped by angels of all sorts," he says."After the crash my angels appeared in the form of the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and even those people who work hard to scrub the hospitals clean.They're all angels."

For all his talk of angels,Vereen himself is spending time as a wizard. Returning to the Broadway stage,Vereen has teamed up with longtime friend and Tony Award-winning director Stephen Schwartz, to play the part of the "Wizard" in Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz.

"This is such a great story,"Vereen says of his latest Broadway stint."This is a funny, creative look at Glinda, the good witch of the north, and the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz prior to Dorothy's arrival."

"The story tells how one witch became good and the other became evil," Vereen explains. "It's just a great time and so wonderful to team back up with Stephen."
Vereen has so much respect for Schwartz that when the opportunity to work with him again came up, it was a no-brainer.

"Stephen called and asked if I'd be interested [in playing the 'Wizard'],"Vereen says, "and I was thrilled.He's such a talent and we've had some great times in the past."

Vereen and Schwartz teamed up in the 1973 award-winning Broadway production of Pippin, for which Vereen won a Tony Award.

He's also been nominated for several other Tony Awards and Emmys.

While Wicked is taking up much of Vereen's time, another recent project gave him the opportunity to honor one of his longtime friends.

Ben Vereen Sings the Music of Sammy Davis Jr., which Vereen recently performed at the Orange County Symphony Hall was, as he calls it, a cathartic way to pay tribute to his deceased friend.

"I love Sammy,"Vereen explains.

"He was a dear friend and an amazingly talented performer."

"The fact that I am able to get up on stage for a few hours [to] do those songs that made him so loved and to share stories of our time's just a remarkable gift for me."

In discussing his own career,Vereen dismisses his status as living legend, preferring instead to focus on those friends he's met and worked with over the years. For him, to get to know and associate with the likes of Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horn and James Cagney means more than any paycheck or honor.

"These are and were good people," Vereen says. "Talented people.To have Princess Grace ask me to join her at a table for dinner is a sweet memory."

"That's what all of this has been about for me-the relationships I've been able to form over the years. It's not about the fame."

Vereen is humble, but his name strikes a cord with anyone who has followed entertainment over the last four decades. Vereen's credits include classic film musicals like Funny Lady and All That Jazz and legendary stage productions like Jelly's Last Jam, Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar.This versatile master of the performing arts has done it all, including appearing on the cutting-edge HBO drama, Oz.

"You have to get into character, whatever that character may be,"Vereen says."So whether it's a Broadway show or something a little rough around the edges, it's all acting, all art."

Vereen landed back on the big screen in The Painting, the story of a blind blues singer.The film was shot in 2001 with Debbie Allen and Clifton Davis and was literally lost in the basement of an office building for four years. After it was found and cleaned up, The Painting made its way to the Cannes Film Festival.

"I'm thrilled about the film," Vereen says. "It was a quick shoot and then I never heard anything about it. Now it's playing in Cannes and getting good feedback. Just goes to show, things always happen for a reason."

A true entertainer, Vereen remains in constant movement and has more projects on the horizon. A studio jazz release is in the works, along with an autobiography, a textbook for college acting classes and a book for parents of children venturing into the world of entertainment.

"I feel like there's so much to say," Vereen says. "I am blessed to have these avenues to communicate with people. I want to make sure they all get the message:

"Life truly is grand."


I loved interviewing Ben Vereen. He is truly a humble, nice man. He believes that he is blessed to have been able to do the things he has in his career. This is one of my favorite interviews because I interviewed a legend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oklahoma Bombing

April 14, 1996

Note: This is an exclusive interview given by Oklahoma City firefighter Chris Fields, marking the one-year anniversary of the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Chris Fields and Scott Schulte have remained friends since working on this story.

As he braces for the first anniversary of the blast that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City,

Firefighter Chris Fields has plenty of reasons to hate prime suspect Timothy McVeigh.
But Fields isn't the kind of guy to hate anyone.

Fields is the firefighter who left a lasting image with the world when he was photographed cradling the lifeless body of 1-year-old Baylee Almon last April 19.

Last week, Fields spoke about his life after the blast and for the first time expressed his feelings about McVeigh and other suspect, Terry Nichols.

"The bombing didn't change my personality, but it changed the way I look at life, "Fields said. "Simple things like getting up in the morning and spending time with my family and doing my job as a firefighter is what I love to do and what matters to me."
Fields, 31, said he doesn't wallow in hatred.
"I don't believe in hate," Fields said.

But he wonders what kind of "warped mind" could commit such a dastardly deed. He also believes the suspects intended to kill on a large scale.

"These guys knew exactly what they were doing," Fields said. "They could have blown the building apart in the middle of the night and caused much less death and injury, but they chose to do it at 9 in the morning when everyone was there, including the children."

"They must have been so miserable with themselves and that it is sad."

While Fields said he has healed over the last year through the comfort of friends, family, colleagues, and hundreds of strangers, April 19 will be a tough day.
"I'm really looking forward to the 20th, because then it won't be the 19th anymore."

Fields, who is married to Cheryl Fields, 27, and has a son, Ryan, 3, will attend a memorial service on the anniversary of the tragedy with other rescue-team members from throughout the country.

The next day, he and other rescuers will relax at a private picnic, where they will be sheltered from the media.

"It is important for all of us to have this time together," Fields said. "We became very close through the bombing. Having the picnic will be a good way to help our healing process."

The picture of Fields holding Baylee's limp body is emblazoned in the minds of Americans, much like the image of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket. Last week, the photo, taken by a freelance photographer, won journalism's highest award Ð the Pulitzer Prize.

Since Fields has lived what was in the picture, Baylee's image is etched in his heart.
He came to cradle Baylee in his arms about 30 minutes into the rescue operation, in answer to a frantic call for help.

"I have a critical infant!" was the cry heard from Oklahoma City police Sgt. John Avera.
Avera handed Baylee to Fields. It was during those dramatic moments, as Fields was about to head for an ambulance, that the famous photo was shot.

Fields, who desperately searched Baylee for signs of life during the short run to the ambulance, placed Baylee on a blanket when he got to the ambulance and hoped paramedics would get vital signs.

"There was nothing there (no vital signs), but I was hoping that it was because I was moving," Fields recalled. "It was horrible, but I didn't have time to think about it. All of us were forced to only think about rescuing."

Baylee, who had celebrated her first birthday the night before the blast, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fields keeps a picture Ð a happy picture Ð taped up in his locker at the fire station.
Fields still remembers details of April 19, like they were yesterday.

He said he and fellow firefighters felt the explosion at 9:02 a.m.

"We were in the station, and the explosion shook the building, and the noise was unbelievable," Fields said. "We just followed the smoke, and when we got on the scene, we just went to work."

But nothing prepared them for what they saw.

"When they first arrived, the smoke from burning cars was so thick they couldn't see the building.

As the smoke cleared, they were in awe by the degree of destruction.
"We were all sort of shocked by what we saw," Fields said. "But we couldn't stand there and stare at the building. We all went back to helping the people."

One of the most emotional moments in the aftermath was when Fields met Baylee's mother, Aren Almon, 23, the day after the explosion.

"I was scared to death to meet her (Almon)," Fields said. "I didn't know if she was going to blame me for not doing more of what."

To his relief, Almon met Fields with a tearful thank you.

"We cried together and hugged," he said. "It was an emotional time for both of us."

Almon and Fields have become friends. Almon and Cheryl Fields, the firefighter's wife, are particularly close.

"Through it all, we have never actually discussed Baylee," Fields said. "Aren has never asked me questions and I've never pushed it. I think it's best that way."

While the use of the now famous photograph is in the hands of the photographer, any merchandising ideas must first be cleared through Fields and Almon. Since some have tried to exploit the picture by slapping it on a T-shirt or coffee mug, Fields and Almon have hired an attorney.

"I don't have a problem with the picture being used for news purposes," Fields said. "But when people just want to make money for themselves, I think that is wrong."

Fields believes McVeigh and Nichols, whose case is getting under way in Colorado, are guilty.
And while hating isn't in his nature, Fields despises the actions of those who committed the bombing.

"I don't understand any of the militia people, "Filed said. "They speak out against a government that gives them the right to act the way they doÉand then they do something like this."

"It just doesn't make sense."