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Saved and Lost

July 12, 2009


We always wish for the savior to come from somewhere to rescue our loved ones from pain and suffering. But life, though often mysterious, is not always what we wish.


July 10th was a big day for GM. It emerged from the depths of bankruptcy faster than anyone expected, saved from extinction. The new GM is approximately 60% owned by the U.S. government and most of the old GM’s assets were sold to a new company owned mainly by the U.S. government as well. So now, we taxpayers can say we are the proud owners of billions of dollars of “toxic assets” once owned by GM, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Citigroup, and lots of other bailed out and bankrupt banks. And we can proudly proclaim that we just borrowed from the Chinese and other countries with cash to save another of our once-world-class companies.

            We are the saviors, my friend, which is nearly as ironic as the Blackberry that saved skier Mr. Fitzherbert (“Skier saved from death plunge by Blackberry,”, June 29, 2009) after he fell into a crevasse after skiing down a glacier in the Matterhorn and Monterosa peaks. After falling 70 feet, he “became stuck like a cork in a bottle between the walls” because “fortunately, the extra inches of the Blackberry were enough to block the fall.” What a great commercial for Blackberry! It saved a live and still worked after the accident as Fitzherbert used it to call his wife during the 10 days he spent in the hospital.

            Five young people weren’t so lucky. When a 19-old-driver who had just had his driver’s license suspended the day before because of six violations in two years passed an SUV and skirted around the crossing gates and flashing lights to cross train tracks in Canton, an Amtrak train collided with his Ford Fusion and shoved it for almost a mile. Five young people, including a 14-year-old girl, were killed. The mother of the girl, who identified the ring given her at birth, said, “I feel I’m to blame (“Families mourn 5 after car crashes with Amtrak train,” Detroit Free Press, Amber Hunt, July 10, 2009) because she warned her daughter to come home fast instead of going to the beach that day.

            It’s too late to wish that there were saviors, to hope that the driver’s parents would have taken his car or that someone would have jumped in front of him and shouted that a train was only a few feet away. It’s too late to dream of heroes like the two men who braved a burning car to save a stranger last week (“Somebody had to get that woman out,” The, July 1, 2009.) When a car hit a utility pole and was struck by a downed power line and in flames in Forest Acres, South Carolina, a crowd of around 70 gawkers stoop around, afraid to go near the fire, downed power lines, and blinding flash of light. But two men wouldn’t stand by.

            Traffic cop Jason Whittle, who was driving nearby, said, “I just couldn’t stand by and watch while someone burned to death,” and Michael Samuels Sr. who came running from his job at a nearby cleaners admitted, “People were shouting. ‘Don’t touch the car! Don’t touch the car!’ But somebody had to get that woman out. My heart told me to go.” Neither of them spoke but together, the two saved Marylin Luther before her Ford Focus became a fireball-blinding black smoke. Marylin, whose daughter has cancer and who passed out before hitting the utility pole, said, “God bless those two men who pulled me out.”

            There are lots of heroes in Noah Biorkman’s life. After finishing a first round of the experimental drug, ABT-751, feeling horrible stomach cramping and leg pain didn’t stop Noah and his parents from celebrating Noah’s 5th birthday. He went to a party at the hospital clinic and to the Toledo Zoo, even though he had to wear a mask while walking by the animals. And then he got to meet the Detroit Tigers at a charity fundraiser sponsored by Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge, who had just made the MLB All Star Team. Before the event, a blood test confirmed that his platelet count was only 18 compared to the 150-300 normal range. That day his right arm hurt him and all he did, according to his mother, was “whine and scream.” But that night, Noah was overjoyed to see his hero, Brandon Inge, and got to talk to him and get a souvenir baseball.

            After the birthday celebrations, Diana wrote that all she hoped was the ABT would stabilize the cancer and that it would stop spreading. All we can hope for is a miracle that will save Noah from the neuroblastoma that has consumed his body.

            In a time filled with heroes, saviors, and strange accidents, it is never the right time to lose someone close. A few hours before the new GM emerged from bankruptcy, my aunt Selma died.  My cousin Ann wrote this about my father’s older sister, “Her passing means that there is one less innocent in the world in which we live.  My mom still believed that people were good, trustworthy and family and friends were everything.  She rarely complained about the indignities of life and always wished and felt that others could feel how much she loved them….I personally have never met or known anyone as strong, resilient or forgiving as my mom.   The world was better for having her and is, for me, less for losing her.” My aunt had the timeless qualities of constant love and kindness which only a few in the world exemplify. Every January 3rd since I can remember, she called from California to wish me happy birthday and find out how her relatives in Michigan were feeling.

            We always wish for the savior to come from somewhere to rescue our loved ones from pain and suffering. But life, though often mysterious, is not always what we wish. In an instant, five young kids are suddenly robbed of life from a train, one is rescued from a burning car by two strangers, another saved by a cellphone against the ice, a legendary company is saved by the taxpayers, and a five-year-old fights on with the help of her doctors and her courageous mother who will simply not stop fighting for his life.

            Sometimes, the struggles against death aren’t enough and those we love evaporate into the dark night. But those who survive can tell us what we need to hear. Here are the heartfelt and hopeful words that my cousin, whom I will always call Annie, wrote to her family and friends, “My mom and I hope this brief email finds you all well and brings a smile and tear to you all because one without the other is incomplete.  A life as special as that of my mom is worth mourning and celebrating.  My mom, book in hand, is now traveling the world, seeing all the things she read about, wondered about and laughed about.  I hope she visits each of you as she has wanted for many years.  For now she is just waking up putting on her walking shoes and beginning her new adventure.  She sends her love.”



BlackBerry StormJason WhittleMichael Samuels

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