Zhen Ren Chuan 2021
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'You don’t have to like them, but you can talk'

The following letter to the editor by Nick Page of Melrose was first published in the Sept. 11 Boston Globe, as the first in a series about the impact of Sept. 11, and is republished with the permission of the author, who leads the Arlington-based Mystic Chorale.

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"The men on the train"

A few weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, I was returning by train from New York to Boston. I had led prayer services and was emotionally drained. The train was packed; nobody wanted to fly yet. We were exhausted, but there were two men who were very loud and, I’m guessing, a little drunk. They made rude remarks about others. When I stood up, they made a loud fat joke.

When the train came to a station, they’d rush out for a quick cigarette, waking up people in their path. I was not alone in hating these guys, and as I fumed I thought about what had happened a few weeks before. I decided I didn’t need more enemies.

 So as the two men reboarded the train, I said to them, “They don’t give you much of a cigarette break.”

“No, they don’t.”

I asked, “What were you doing in New York?”

“We’re firefighters. We were helping out at Ground Zero.”

In that moment they went from being everyone’s enemies to everyone’s heroes. I realized that the difference between an enemy and a friend is you can talk to a friend. You don’t have to like them, but you can talk.

This letter was published Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.


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