You were in the room when I arrived early for the event. Another survivor was there as well. We were both trying to get the lay of the land, a feel for the space, and a read on the way we would be received. You were organizing the room when I introduced myself and the gentleman from New Hampshire. I explained why we were there. We were survivors looking to ask questions of the Diocese without the illusion that answers would be given.
You gave us your name. I apologize for losing it in the freeway full of thoughts running through my head. You mentioned you were a Human Resources Specialist at the University. I don’t know why that fact survived in my head. You read us pretty well and gave us the room tour. You pointed out the exits and let us know that the closest may be behind us. Your voice was soft and reassuring. Unlike some of the folks we met, you did not treat us as damaged or keep your distance. You showed no sign of being uncomfortable. A few times before the program began, I saw you glance at me and nod then check on our new friend from New England. I don’t know if you were aware you were treating us with such care and understanding. It may just be your way.
What I did not see coming was what you would do in the event of a loss of cabin pressure.
The oxygen was sucked out of the room as we individually addressed the panel during the forum. I spoke until I needed to sit and try to stop the sensation of spinning. I did not realize how hard that was going to be for me. I heard my fellow survivor speaking, his voice catching. I didn’t turn around to see what you did. Your actions were revealed to me later.
Of all the people in the room, it was you who quietly slid up next to a man during one of the most vulnerable moments of his life and take his hand. You reassured him that he was not alone. You transferred your strength to him. And then you went back to handling details in the room for the Task Force.
When the event was concluding, you checked on both of us. You spent more time with New Hampshire because I had a classmate, an old friend with me to run interference. The gentleman you stood by told me what you did. He emailed me over the weekend, trying to figure out who you were. He and his wife wanted to thank you for your selfless and anonymous gift of care to someone you had never met but knew needed a hand to stay focused.
I know who you are. You are Compassion. That evening, you upheld the highest traditions of service to others at the University. You were the one you offered healing, acceptance, and grace. You were the person in the room who carried the weight of empowering survivors upon your shoulders. It was not your job to do, but you stepped up. Your calming hand eased a turbulent journey. You did not say a word into the microphone, yet your actions made the most significant statement in the room.
You walked by me later as I sat on the wall by the library, breathing in the night air. You waved as you moved off with your friend in the direction of Mulberry Street. I knew that was one last wellness check as you disappeared into the night.
You probably have heard from our friend in the Northeast. I made sure to send your contact information to him. Now it is my turn to offer my gratitude. I won’t embarrass you by naming you in this post. I do want you to know that your actions made the night survivable and restored my faith that good people choose to do the right thing. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by what they do when they don’t know someone is watching.
Thank you! I hope you know the impact you had on a man from New Hampshire and another from Virginia. It was my great honor to meet you.