It's a TODAY reunion!
After months apart as many of them worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the group of Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Craig Melvin and Carson Daly was able to get together in person in upstate New York earlier this month for an outdoor, socially-distanced reunion.
"I think that's been the hardest part is that we really love meeting up in the morning and spending our whole mornings together," Savannah said. "It's really almost the show before the show. It's the time before the time. All those early hours before 7 o'clock when we get to hang out. I definitely miss that."
They reunited to celebrate the launch of TODAY All Day, where viewers get to watch the stories and anchors they love any time of day. You can see the full reunion at TODAY.com/AllDay or on Peacock TV (Peacock is part of our parent company, NBC Universal).
Savannah, Al, Craig and Carson have all been working from home for stretches, while until recently, Hoda has often been the lone anchor holding down the fort in New York City at Studio 1A in Rockefeller Center. She has given TODAY fans a few glimpses at her solitary morning routine during the pandemic.
"I have to tell you, one of the weirdest things in the world is sitting in our seats, turning around and seeing nobody," she said.
"It's just empty, and it doesn't feel like our New York, the New York we're used to. I think there was a fear when it was spiking, like, if you walk in, you're gonna get sick. I felt like I was bathing in Purell day and night. I was constantly paranoid about it, but then you get into a rhythm."
Hoda became a symbol of the emotional toll that the coronavirus was taking on millions of Americans when she cried on the air after interviewing quarterback Drew Brees of her beloved New Orleans Saints in March. She was the only TODAY host in the studio at the time.
"I think we've all had a breakdown here or there, sometimes on camera, sometimes not," Savannah said. "But I think we all know we're the lucky ones. There's so much grief on so many levels, and it's so heavy. And we do want to be together, and it's hard to carry that alone."
"We are sort of the closest people in each other's lives and our families as well," Carson said. "And I don't think the average person really thinks that or knows that."
The members of the TODAY family also watched from home as protests against racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd's death in May went past where they would normally be working. Al remembered seeing windows at Rockefeller Center all boarded up.
"It just was so jarring, besides everything else that was going on,'' he said. "It really brought it home."
Craig was right in the middle of much of it, covering the protests in person in various cities. His TODAY colleagues made sure to reach out to let him know what he means to all of them.
"Some of the text messages that I've gotten from you during all of this have mattered more in the moment that I was in than you'll probably ever know,'' he said at the reunion. "So thank you for that."
The protests also sparked frank discussions about race on TODAY in which Al and Craig spoke about raising Black and biracial children in America.
"What's been great is that it's created this conversation that we've all been able to be part of that maybe you never thought you would," Al said. "Craig and I talking about raising young Black men and young Black children in this time and talking about it in a way both privately and publicly, I just never thought we would do."
Meanwhile, Carson was adjusting to life with a newborn baby, as he and his wife, Siri, welcomed their fourth child, daughter Goldie, in March as the pandemic began.
"Hoping that this highly-susceptible newborn child wouldn't wake up with a 103-degree fever, so every day you're just scared,'' he said. "Meanwhile, she's bringing in so much joy to your life. So there's this real high highs and low lows. And then you start drinking at 2 p.m."
The TODAY crew agreed that even though there have been plenty of moments of parental frustration during the pandemic, they have savored the extra time at home with their children.
"I have to tell you, all this additional time has been such a joy for me," Hoda said. "Watching Hope and Haley toddle around, and now they make each other laugh.
"I always scribble in my journal and it's getting repetitive, but I always say, 'God, thanks for not letting me miss this because this is one of those things that's easily missed in life.' And I don't think we've ever paused like this. I know we're working, but it's different, and I feel like my life's been on pause, and I'm seeing things more clearly."
Al has enjoyed hanging out with his 17-year-old son, Nick, who has special needs.
"His anxiety level was up anyway, and so we were able to hold him close, and he felt safe," Al said. "On the positive side, he's enjoyed hanging out, and we've been doing this cooking show together at night."
The pandemic has also brought about changes in how they approach parenting.
"I am definitely more patient than I was before all of this started, and I've always struggled with that," Craig said. "I don't know if it's that I'm kinder, but I wear my emotions more on my sleeve than I did a few months ago. I think all of this has softened me in a way that I did not fully appreciate until we were a few months into it."
"I feel I really connect with what Craig said," Savannah said. "I don't know how to explain it, but I feel more tender, and a little more raw and maybe more vulnerable, which I don't really like to say because it's hard in this business to be vulnerable.
"That's the one thing you're really not supposed to be, but I do feel that way."
Living in close quarters has also deepened relationships like the one between Hoda and her fiancé, Joel Schiffman.
"I think it just solidified that ... I'm good at choosing friends and now my partner," she said. "My first partner wasn't so good. This one I'm good at. I've learned."
They also are all grateful to have the ability to work from home when essential workers across the country don't have that choice.
"My family's everything to me," Carson said. "I selfishly sort of loved being with them, but it came at such a cost for so many lives lost from COVID-19 and so many people displaced, so many essential workers, as I could sit in my house and get paid, 40 million Americans don't have a job.
"People are still getting outside to survive, and that was never lost on me."
Their time together over the years has created a bond strong enough to transcend the distance between them during the pandemic.
"Everything about this feels surreal," Savannah said. "To me, this whole time period is really a testament to bonds that are greater than physical closeness. They're real closeness, emotional closeness, and our friendships have carried that and have kind of lifted us up.
"We're far away (but) I feel as close to you as ever, if not more. And when you feel scared and sad and discouraged, you lean on each other. And I feel that way about you all."