In His Prime

In the war’s first two weeks, one of the most familiar faces from Iraq was NBC’s David Bloom, his normally schoolboy-neat do whipped into disarray as he rode with the Third Infantry Division. He and his weekend Today coanchor in New York Soledad O’Brien had a standing $10 bet over whether he would finally resort to a military buzz cut. “He insisted, ‘I’m not going native,'” recalls O’Brien. “‘Not gonna cut it short.'”

That wind-in-the-hair gusto helped make Bloom, 39, a rising star of TV news. It also may have contributed to his death on April 6 of a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot in the lung, often originating in the leg, which can result from prolonged immobility. Before collapsing in the desert 25 miles south of Baghdad, he’d spent days cooped up in the armored reporting unit he helped design: a modified M88 tank recovery vehicle mounted with a camera that beamed images to a satellite truck nicknamed the “Bloommobile,” allowing him to file stories while racing across the battlefield. At night, he told The Washington Post, “you’re sleeping with your knees propped up around you.” He had reportedly complained of leg cramps in the days before his death but ignored advice to see a doctor. (At press time, an autopsy had not yet been performed.)

A native of Edina, Minn., Bloom had reported from the O.J. Simpson trial, the Clinton White House and Kosovo for NBC before joining Today in 2000. But for all his striving after stories (one producer dubbed him “Robo-correspondent”), he always hankered for home with wife Melanie, 40, and their daughters—twins Nicole and Christine, 9, and Ava, 3. When Bloom was covering Clinton, recalls NBC correspondent Campbell Brown, the twins often called just before he went on the air. “He’d sweetly ask them about their day. Then he’d say goodbye, switch right back into high gear and never miss his deadline.”

Ironically, says O’Brien, Bloom hoped Today would mean more time with family. Still, “he always had this sense that, ‘Wow, this is a great job,'” she adds. “I can’t believe we’re speaking about him in the past tense.”

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