If NBC 4 morning news anchor Joe Krebs hadn't become a journalist, he might have been a pilot.
As a young boy growing up in Missouri, Krebs dreamed about flying the planes he saw soaring overhead. He'd even sneak into the local airport and convince flight crews to show him the aircraft. Sitting in the cockpit of big Boeing jet, it was easy to imagine himself an aviator.
Lucky for those of us used to waking up with Krebs each morning, that particular dream was never realized.
After 32 years working for the NBC station in Washington D.C., Krebs, a Derwood resident, recently announced he will retire from his position as morning anchor at the end of March. He graciously took some time this week to answer a few questions for Patch, touching on some of the most memorable moments on the job. His responses have been edited for length.
What have been some of the most memorable stories of your career?
"I've covered a lot. I would say, of course, 9/11 was incredibly emotional to cover. ... It happened in the morning. I was in the middle of getting ready to do one of the Today show cut-in's. Just before I went on the air, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric came on. They had a report that something was happening at the World Trade Center."
Krebs said an NBC 4 reporter happened to be driving by the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 hit that building. The station started reporting on the attack almost immediately.
"The whole day was such a shock," he said.
Krebs also recalled the 2002 sniper attacks as one of the biggest stories he has covered. "That was really pretty stunning to deal with that. We were on the air as that was happening and stayed on the air during the first day when there were repeated scenes of murder throughout the city. No one really knew what was going on. Those were enormous stories."
He also said it was interesting to cover the trial of John Hinckley Jr., who was found not guilty by reason of insanity for attempting to assassinate President Reagan in 1981.
"I covered that trial for many, many weeks. ... Given the circumstances, it was extremely courageous for (the jury) to stand up and say that," Krebs said. "It was a very interesting verdict and an incredibly interesting trial."
In his career, Krebs has also reported details of more than 100 cold cases of rapes and murder.
"I've had the opportunity to meet the families of the victims. Just to see what they're living with, knowing that these cases aren't solved," he said. "For them to open up to me and show me their pain … it has really been rewarding."
What has kept you in the Washington metro region so long?
"I love it. My kids were raised here. My wife and I were both from the Midwest, but we just love it. This is a wonderful city to be in. The city is fascinating," he said. "There's amazing diversity — people from all over the world. It’s wonderfully enlightening to live in their midst."
How has newsgathering changed in your 42-year career?
"Enormously. When I first started, I was a one-man band. I shot my own film as I did my own stories in Greensboro, N.C. It was kind of a clunky way to do it. The equipment has changed radically. Gathering the news has become simpler in the sense that the equipment has become smaller and easier to deal with," he said.
"The platforms … have become so diverse. It's online. It's on the computer. It's on the smartphones. People have access to news and information 24 hours a day. Any story they want at any time they want it. It's revolutionary change."
What will you miss most about reporting the news?
"I'm going to miss the people that I work with. I've become very close to the people in this building — 32 years. My kids grew up in this building. My daughters sold Girl Scout cookies office to office and cubicle to cubicle. It really is in many ways like moving away from your family. ... They're great people and I love them," he said.
"I'm probably going to miss the privilege that viewers have given me to be in their homes every day. I meet people on the street who say, 'You're in my home every morning. You help me start my day.' It's a tremendous compliment. ... I'm going to miss that feeling of usefulness. It's a wonderful feeling to feel that you play a role in people’s lives every day."
During his retirement, Krebs said he plans to take some long bicycle trips around the country. He is also planning a trip to France with his wife. He is interested in pursuing writing, reading, teaching and voice-over work.
Krebs' full biography is available on NBC 4's website.