The Kindness of Strangers {a #poem}

by | Sep 10, 2014 | Life & Faith | 9 comments

“That’s what we storytellers do Mrs. Travers. We restore order through imagination.

We instill hope again and again and again.”
                                                                                       Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

View towards Manhattan from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. photo J.L. Collins

way back then
when no one knew
the world would crack the next day,
we stood there,
tourist trappings wrapped around us
‘howdy’ I said, that quiet night on the subway.
late ride home, guest of the nephew,
no one but he, myself, and daughter, it seemed.
(surely there were others).
“We’re from Seattle,” I announced, 
including my girl
with the sweep
of my hand.  “Visiting him…..”
towards the nephew.

“My name’s Peter. I’m a writer,”
he replied.
‘Who do write for?’
‘A magazine–Newsweek…’
and me so impressed, not by his job
but his niceness in New York
that carried over to the exchanged emails
and the phone call I got to make the few days later
when, safely arrived at home, across miles of mayhem
and madness
I reached through, asked for him,
and heard him say, “Seattle?–how are you?”
and he cared with his questions and 
I in turn with mine.
He was okay….
recovering in the City that had been incinerated.
We were safe at home (physically) 
but the mental and emotional
healing would take many, many months.
Years. (and there would be scars).
His concern helped.

Forget everything you’ve ever heard about the
fright of traveling underground in those lightless places
New York–London–Tokyo
perilously passing you through the layers underneath–
there are people kind, open, friendly,
and no matter where you are
we are all the same–
especially on the subway.

Jody Lee Collins c. 2012

In September of 2001 my daughter and I were going to celebrate her graduation from culinary school with a trip to New York City to meet Ruth Reichl, then Editor of ‘Gourmet Magazine’ and author of 3 of our favorite books on cooking. We’d spent 5 glorious days in and around Brooklyn and on September 10th in the evening, met my nephew for drinks at Windows on the World restaurant 70 plus floors up, high in Manhattan.  
A tremendous summer thunderstorm came through that night, lightning strikes, rain in buckets, soaking us through. We dried out and took the subway home.
The next morning was the day of our appointment.  I remember the voice message, ‘see you at 11 on the 11th’ , from Ruth’s assistant.  It was a crystal clear, blue sky day. Then the earth moved, the sky filled with ashes and paper glitter and we were forever changed.
When we returned home to Washington, I was in shock for about 6 weeks, although I didn’t know it at the time. 
I couldn’t talk on the phone and cook dinner at the same time. 
I had to be still whenever possible. 
Simultaneous input verbally and visually was overwhelming. 
I walked through the days wrapped in cotton. 
You can read what I wrote after I’d been home a few weeks  here.


  1. Thank you for sharing such a difficult story, Jody. The “blue sky behind the ashes” (Darlene's wonderful words above) included the unity and solidarity we experienced as a nation, in the aftermath of that horrific day. Your post rekindled my hope in America, reminding me we have been strong in the past; with God's help, we can be strong again.

  2. the sky
    the sky
    even ashes

    thank you for sharing this, miss jody.


  3. Loved this!

  4. I didn't know this amazing story for you and your daughter. Wow. Thanks for sharing it on this important day.


  5. I don't remember hearing this before, Jody. How horrible to have actually been there that day. 🙁 I've been to New York only twice, but both times I was surprised at how nice people were overall. But I shouldn't have been, because you're right: “we are all the same–especially on the subway.” Thanks for sharing this today.

  6. Thank you, Jody for sharing this. Isn't is amazing how we all have our own stories of that day and that, in the telling and listening, we find both the freshness of our wounds and healing?

  7. We were on in New England for our 25th anniversary, originally scheduled to fly out of Boston but changed plans and flew out of Providence, RI. The attacks happened enroute to Chicago where we were stranded when they grounded all planes. That whole experience was frightening enough, but to have been in NYC that day, well, no words for what you must have seen, felt, experienced.

  8. I will never forget that day…..I was safe in Arizona and my Mom was crying on the phone in California, but really neither one of us was safe because it happened to our home country. I can't imagine how you must have felt after you got back…..Glad I came here to honor this memory.

  9. No doubt it must have been incredibly life changing for you. I was safe at home but I remember that feeling of what “safe” meant disintegrated that day. Thank you for sharing your story Jody!


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