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Everyday Heroes

It’s September 11. As I watch the surreal images of
collapsing New York City skyscrapers and the gash sliced into the Pentagon-surely
the biggest world event of my lifetime-I’m struck by the small stories.

Yesterday, researching an article I was writing, I
phoned an information officer with a federal agency in Washington, D.C., to check
the number of employees who worked there. He called me back this morning to tell
me the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service was authorized to employ
381 staff.

"What are you doing in the office?" I asked.
He answered, "It’s crazy out there with everybody trying to get home. It’s
quiet in here. Seemed like a good time to catch up on some work."

I have to finish this column three weeks before it
will be printed and mailed. By the time you read this we’ll have a somewhat better
idea of how such horror could happen. By the time you read this I will have figured
out some way to explain it to my 7-year-old daughter. I have this feeling the
stories in this magazine might seem frivolous compared with the suffering of so
many victims and their families and their friends.

But I have another feeling that maybe the small stories
we print in Kentucky Living about everyday people are exactly what matters, especially
as we try to understand this confusing and scary disaster.

From New York I heard one such story of a person going
about her job. As I listened to the radio during the first hours of the attacks,
an excited news anchor interviewed a composed-sounding spokesperson for a New
York City hospital, about the hospital’s emergency procedures.

"You must be expecting hundreds of victims,"
said the interviewer. She calmly replied, "We already have hundreds of victims

An everyday person doing the job she was trained to
do, even under extraordinary conditions.

One way I survive difficult stories from the world
news is to remind myself that news reports the unusual. And I think about the
people I know, those we write about in this magazine, and all the readers of Kentucky
Living-more than 1 million people keeping their everyday lives moving forward:
mothers, teachers, farmers, students, bosses, workers. And I always conclude,
"We’ll be fine."

No news story compares with today’s. But I expect that
by the time you read this, it will be clear that this horrible story will be overcome
by this country’s millions of everyday heroes.

Paul Wesslund


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