December 29, 2021

Natalie Ravitz, a former political staffer, wrote a lovely tribute to the late Harry Reid last night on Twitter:

Please bear with the thread, but Harry Reid meant a lot to me and I want to share a short story about why. In 2002, I was press secretary for Senator Paul Wellstone’s re-election campaign in Minnesota.

On Oct 25, 2002, Paul, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, my colleagues Tom, Mary and Will, and two pilots were killed in a plane crash. Harry Reid was one of the first of Paul’s colleagues to fly in. Still in shock, I spent all day taking him around to events and sorting politics.

At the end of the day, I took him back to the airport. I was driving Will’s car. The same big black SUV that Will drove Paul and me in to most campaign events.

Someone must have told Reid that Will was my boyfriend. And that at one point in the schedule, I was meant to be on the plane with Paul. It was a fluke I wasn’t that day.

When we went to say goodbye, he asked if he could speak to me alone. He then walked me out to his private plane - a casino jet they had chartered- and asked me to come sit inside with him.

I hesitated. He said: I know what you lost and I know whose car you drove today. And I don’t want you to be afraid to get on a plane for the rest of your life. So let’s just go sit together for a little while.

And so we got on the plane and had a cup of coffee. We shared stories about Paul - how brave he was voting against the war in Iraq. He showed me the fancy gadgets on the plane, crazy to him, having grown up so poor. And I told him about Will, and our plan to move back to DC.

He said he knew I had lost my home and my job, but I had one with him whenever I was ready. The empathy and emotional fortitude he showed that day has stuck with me always. And it wasn’t just that day; he followed up to reiterate his offer two more times.

When I joined @BarbaraBoxer a few months later he said “she’s the best! But I’m still here if you need me.” I spent 7 years with Boxer, working closely with Reid’s team and Democratic leadership. He always had a joke or a kind word for me.

The night we passed the Affordable Care Act, we were working through an impasse over women’s health services with Reid keeping Senators Boxer and Ben Nelson in different rooms. It was Christmas Eve, snowing and everyone was exhausted.

We had no food and everything was closed: we ate a tin of holiday nuts and cookies sent by constituents and lobbyists. Reid needled Schumer for stealing all the cashews. We tried and failed to light the fireplace. And we finally got a deal as the snow really came down.

Together, with all of us in the room, Reid called President Obama from on speaker- I think it was a flip phone- and said we have a deal and we’re headed to the floor. We cheered and the President thanked us all.

Harry Reid played a defining role in two bookends of my Senate career. He was powerful and strategic, but also wry and soulful. I’m grateful to have known him, for what he gave this country, and for what he gave me sitting together quietly on a plane in Minnesota. RIP.

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