CNN
Alexia Fernandez
February 07, 2018 AT 08:31 AM EST
This story originally appeared on People

Don Lemon returned to his anchor desk on CNN Tuesday night delivering an emotional thank you to his viewers and friends.

“First off, many of you have noticed that I have not been here,” he began. “My older sister died unexpectedly last week and I am back sitting with you tonight because this is exactly where she would have wanted me to be.”

“Leisa was so proud of me, and all she wanted for Christmas last year was a new CNN Tonight T-shirt.”

Lemon’s older sister L’Tanya “Leisa” Lemon Grimes died last week after she reportedly fell into a pond in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, according to The Times-Picayune.

“I want all of you to know that your prayers and your words of encouragement have meant the world to me and my family over the last few days,” Lemon continued. “So many of you have reached out to me that I can’t respond to all of them, so I want to respond now and please pass this on.”

“There’s so much conflict happening right now, I think it’s important for all Americans to know that when something like this happens, it tends to bring out the best in people. Some of my competitors, people I have raging arguments with on television — you think we hate each other, but we don’t,” he said.

Lemon thanked several of his counterparts of various other news stations, including Sean Hannity, Tameron Hall, Megyn Kelly and Wendy Williams.

He said he found out about his sister’s death while at work and thanked his team for “taking care of me,” as well as the people who “packed my bags and took care of my travel arrangements” after he found out about his sister’s death.

The CNN Tonight anchor struggled not to cry as he thanked CNN President Jeff Zucker for staying with him.

“I’m going to get through this,” Lemon said, wiping away tears. “You don’t know how much this meant to me Jeff Zucker, but I will never forget that you wouldn’t leave my office and you wouldn’t go home until I got in the car, on the plane. So, I want to thank you and Karen and my little brother, my bro, Andrew.”

Lemon also thanked his boyfriend Tim Malone, saying, “To Tim, the love of my life, who got on a plane without asking and then sat in my mom’s driveway for two hours. I love you.”

Thanking his family, Lemon seemed to regain his composure, before turning to a different camera.

“So, let’s get started,” he said.

Several people shared their respects toward Lemon on Twitter, including their admiration for how he quickly shifted gears into reporting the news.

“My heart breaks for @donlemon right now….his first night back on air after the tragic, unexpected death of his sister Leisa. He started the show off thanking people, by name & also in general, for the outreach,” Dianne Gallagher a CNN national correspondent, tweeted.

“And then, @donlemon took a deep breath & got to the news. That’s not easy, y’all. It takes strength, professionalism…” she wrote in a second Tweet.

Former Scandal actor Columbus Short tweeted, “Man.. @donlemon just made water come out of my eyes. Losing a sibling is beyond hard to deal. His class, and strength is unreal. Sending prayers and love to him and his family.”

Gretchen Carlson also tweeted, writing, “My heart goes out to @donlemon for the loss of his sister. He’s back on the air tonight and my heart goes out to him. @CNN.”

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