Today Says Goodbye to Katie Couric

05/31/2006 at 08:00 AM EDT

Today Says Goodbye to Katie Couric
Couric with the Today show cast on May 31
Richard Drew/AP
NBC's Today show said goodbye on Wednesday to its co-anchor of 15 years, Katie Couric.

"Farewell, friend," co-host Matt Lauer said at the opening of the special three-hour edition, citing Couric's "more than 15,000 interviews, millions of laughs and countless cups of coffee."

Plunking a box of tissues on the desk, Lauer said to Couric, "This isn't for you. It's for me."

"I'm feeling happy and sad and completely out of control, and you know how much I like that," Couric told Lauer, who noted that his outgoing partner is "a control freak."

This fall, Couric will assume her new role as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Meredith Vieira will take her place on Today in September, while Rosie O'Donnell fills Vieira's seat on ABC's The View.

For weeks, VIPs from Julie Andrews and former President Clinton to Condoleeza Rice and Sting have been issuing video farewells to Couric. Dateline co-anchor Stone Phillips even sat at his piano and played a song about her, set to the tune of the Ray Charles's "Ruby": "They say Katie, you're like a flame/ Into our lives you came/ And in your eyes we see/ Heartache for NBC."

"You've held America's hand during a lot of difficult times," news anchor Ann Curry told Couric on Wednesday while Lauer gave his partner a kiss on the cheek.

Al Roker struggled to keep his emotions in check during the tributes to the loved ones Couric lost to cancer (her husband, Jay Monahan, and her sister Emily). He also cited the number of lives she may have saved by encouraging viewers to get checked for colon cancer.

When it was Couric's turn to return the compliments, she said of her colleagues, "They're not just coworkers. They're lifelong friends." Then, turning to Lauer, she said, "And I know I'll never have a partner like you – because I'll never be working with a partner again."

Among the images during the send-off was a message in lights on Chicago's Wrigley Field: "We will miss you Katie. Good luck."

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