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.