How Strangers Change Our Lives For the Better

Thank you everyone for your incredible, stirring, sad and thought-provoking comments on my September 11th post. I thought of answering each comment individually but they were all so profound that I needed to really think about them all and not be flippant or glib or trite in my response.

A number of people have written about September 11th. These are my favorites posts:

Infertile Fertile
Four of a Kind
Not a Fertile Myrtle

Mel at Stirrup Queens told an incredibly moving story. A profile of a 9/11 widow had changed her life. She hadn’t been able to find the story since originally reading it, but wanted to find it and thank the woman for her words, for her story.

I am on bed rest with pneumonia, which sucks, but means I have lots of time on my hands. I decided to find the article. First, I skimmed through all of the “Portraits of Grief” in The New York Times. Not there. Then I remembered that The Wall Street Journal also did some profiles. Not there. Then I seemed to remember The Washington Post did profiles of the Pentagon victims. And I found the article. I emailed it to Mel. Another reader also found it.

I had read all of the “Portraits of Grief” when they first appeared: a lot of my former job was keeping up with world events. It was heartbreaking to see those faces again. I had identified with the young, twenty-something victims at the time, as they were my contemporaries. I particularly remember and identified with Melissa Harrington Hughes, who lived in San Francisco, was a young bride and whose last words of love to her husband played and replayed over and over again on British news.

This time, it was particularly difficult and sad to read about all of the handsome, beautiful and vital fathers and mothers. But I was struck this time by how most profiles were defiant. How each of the victims had multiple dimensions, were exceptional in some way. They rose to great heights in their professions despite modest beginnings. They spent all of their money treating family members to new homes and vacations. Their practical jokes in the locker room of the firehouse were legendary and made many people laugh over the years. They always blew their friends off to drive their mother to the beauty salon. Somehow these profiles are life-affirming. Each of these people had profoundly made a difference to many lives, through kindnesses, through friendships and most of all through love. Everyone was well-loved.

Said the father of one victim:

“Make this a sweet story,” Ira Lassman said the other day, “about one little kernel of a human being whose life will be sorely missed.”

And I know that I rag on The New York Times about their coverage of infertility, but this series was brilliant.

I don’t know what I can do to change the world we live in, post 9/11. I vote, I advocate for change for the ALI Community. In the end I am a small dot among an infinite number of dots. Like in a Seurat painting.

But Not a Fertile Myrtle had a suggestion that resonated with me. Be kind, in small ways. Go to your local fire station and thank them for their service. Help people you know and don’t know in small ways. Fix someone a meal. Be like Bodega Bliss and Stumbling Gracefully, strangers to me less than a year ago, who brought me chicken noodle soup, paninis with fresh tomato and basil, and caramel apple cupcakes with cinnamon frosting on Sunday when I was down and out. I kid you not, those cupcakes were the best cupcakes I’ve ever had: Bodega Bliss is the next Martha Stewart.

So it begins: I will do this. Because Mel’s story brings this home: strangers can change our lives for the worse, but they can also change people’s lives for the better. And that’s the lesson from 9/11 that I most want to take with me for the rest of my life.



Filed under Discovering joy, Fear

8 responses to “How Strangers Change Our Lives For the Better

  1. A lovely post. Thank you for including me in your favorites – I’m truly touched. Your whole post reminded me of my dad’s story, of the doctor who handed him a mask when no one else would… even 10 years later, that small act of kindness stayed with my dad.

  2. Esperanza

    If there is anything to take away from such a horrendous day, that would be it. Thank you for giving me a lens through which to remember and understand that day. It is greatly appreciated.

  3. I loved the messages that you, Keiko, Mel and Suzy (and others!) offered, and how connected we all are, and how important kindness is.

    I hope you feel better soon!

  4. This is so beautiful (and I’m not talking about my elbow…which, is quite stunning, I must admit) and so right. Thank you for writing this. I couldn’t agree more.

    And I’m so excited you found that article for her! She must be so thankful….that’s just so wonderful.

    My day was starting out a little sad today, but this helped put things into perspective. Thank you. Love!

  5. Thank you for including me in your favorite posts.

    I love this:
    “Make this a sweet story,” Ira Lassman said the other day, “about one little kernel of a human being whose life will be sorely missed.”

    Hope you are feeling better ASAP!

  6. Mo

    1) I am so jealous you got to eat BB’s cupcakes! (is it terrible that this is the first thing that comes to mind when reading this post? sorry)
    2) I hope you feel better soon!
    3) This post is beautifully written, as usual.
    4) xoxo!

  7. I am new to your blog and so glad to have found it. My story is so complex, but in short I will say that September 11 used to be such a different day for me. I was only miles away from the towers when they collapsed.. frantically trying to take count of my friends who worked in and around those buildings. Flash forward several years to 2010. My 4th child Cullen was stillborn on September 11, 2010. My world ended and my story changed course completely. September 11th will live in my heart in such a different and unimaginable way. This year as I looked at the picture of a year gone by I am shocked to see how much I have changed, and how the 10 years that passed have left such a different woman in their wake.

  8. Pingback: Welcome, ICLWers! | Too Many Fish to Fry

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