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Suzanne Perryman Headshot

Through Tragedy and Terror, Written Words Touch a Million Lives

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I held my first daughter tight against my breast as I watched the Twin Tower tragedy unfold on television on 9/11. With my tears dripping onto the soft red curls on her infant head, she slept soundly as I held her tighter and tighter, believing this would keep her safe from the terror at hand. Innocently she slept, unaware of my growing grief, only awakened by the fear in my voice as I phoned my husband, describing the unimaginable images unfolding on the screen.

It was the terror that everyone talked about that week. The true stories of the heroes took weeks, months and even years to be told. News events were still reported back then in the paper, on TV and online; social stories were not yet "shared" on social media like they are today.

News reports may frighten us, and it may be the images that first capture our interest, evoke our emotions and make it impossible for us to look away, but it is the personal stories that stay with us, change us for the better and eventually help us heal.

As a parent I felt fear, hearing the deadly details of the attack at Sandy Hook. As the stories of the victims were shared, I clicked and read. I began to trust again and could see the heroes that exist at my daughters' own school. I believe these heroes will keep her safe, I believe they will hold her as tightly as I did on 9/11, if need be, to protect her from harm.

As a special needs mom, I write my own stories to help myself and others heal. Last Sunday night, I read Kate Leong's goodbye to her 5-year-old son Gavin on her blog, Chasing Rainbows. Since then, hundreds of others have shared how Gavin helped inspire Kate. Kate writes about managing her grief and how stories comfort her too:

There are some things that bring me a lot of comfort. As I see (or am told) about the incredible impact Gavin's story has had far and wide, I feel so proud. I have always thought that Gavin was sent here to teach and change people. And I can say for certain that he accomplished his mission on Earth.

At first, the images from the Boston Marathon tragedy were difficult to decipher. There was smoke, disbanded crowds of people, scattered debris. From that chaos, "Carlos the Cowboy" emerged pushing a young, severely injured Jeff Bauman Jr. to safety. Fueled by his own loss, Carlos ran to help and his story of heroism was shared over and over, and throughout the terror, he inspired many.

When I talked about this tragedy to my own children, I chose to tell them of the loss of 8-year -old Martin Richard. I told his story, how he wanted to do good and what he believed in. I told them some of the true stories of hope I read, hoping to soothe the hurt.

In the car yesterday, my long-ago infant daughter from 9/11, now almost a teen, shared a Spotify song with me. The lyrics in Jake Miller's rap song, "Touched A Million Lives," tell incredible true stories of a girl with cancer, a bullied boy and a grieving little girl. At the end of the song, the artist "turns the table," telling of his own dark days and how his fans' true stories saved his life.

As we drove along, my daughter and I, I was thinking about Gavin, Carlos the Cowboy and Jeff Bauman Jr. I could see 8-year-old Martin's face. At first, I felt the sadness of a special needs mom, knowing you can do every thing right and sometimes still lose. I began to get lost in grief for Martin's family until the stories started replaying in my mind. The written words of the heroes that against all odds, bring us hope, help us believe there is some good to celebrate in these moments and my own clouds began to lift. I drove, singing along in honor of these heroes to "Touched a Million Lives." and chasing my own rainbows.