Extreme Kindness

Extreme Kindness

Hey Meg, I’m stuck in Chicago…”

Back in another could-be-anywhere airport. Anywhere is Chicago this morning. Last night our flight was delayed from Detroit which put us in Oprah-land too late to leave and so we spent the night here.

I sat next to the coolest cat on the plane. When he wasn’t humorously grumbling for a JD on the rocks, he was curling my hair with stories of the 9/11 clean up in NYC. This guy, Rob, was in charge of coordinating and overseeing the clean up of the pile, the huge mass of debris that was left after the twin towers collapsed. It took two years to remove and for the first 6 months it’s molten core, still smoldering with jet-fuel, dioxins and other horrific things, sat around 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.

He said he risked his life to serve his country and do his bit in the aftermath of that tragic event. When Rob told me he risked his life he was speaking to the dangers of simply being in such close, extended proximity to the heap of shattered scrapers. What most news reports wont tell you is that the burning pile of concrete and chemicals in the heart of Manhattan was toxic beyond comprehension. Now he has what is referred to by doctors as WTC cough, a respiratory condition caused by the inhalation of all the poisons that were off-gassing from the debris. Saddest of all, he now has leukemia which his physicians believe was caused by his daily exposure to the pile for months on end.

This is all heavy stuff, obviously, but man did this guy wear it lightly! He said one of the perks of his job was he got to meet a ton of celebrities like Adam Sandler (a real character guy), Mike Myers, Oprah and starlets like Meg Ryan. Rob sounded pretty sweet on Meg after their meeting. At one point when our flight was delayed he phoned home and pretended to leave a message for Meg, apologizing that he’d be getting in late.

Rob, I hope I see you again, but if I don’t please allow me to acknowledge your stupendous sense of humor and, of course, your courage.

Oh, that’s my flight…

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