September 13, 2011

The Catuzzi Sisters

Three sisters, Lauren, Vaughn and Dara Catuzzi grew up together in Indiana and Texas.  They loved each other but probably fought like siblings do.  They each married and moved away from each other when they got older.  But they stayed in touch and supported each other still.
Lauren was writing a book that she was really excited about.  She had been a Girl Scout and loved earning Merit Badges.  She decided that grown up women needed to earn Merit Badges too, so she had been writing a book that would allow women to earn Merit Badges.  Lauren loved to try new things.  As an adult, she skated around her neighborhood.  She became a trained Emergency Medical Technician.  She took classes in gardening, cooking, and scuba diving.  She hiked, jogged and kayaked.  She even went skydiving on her birthday once.  Learning these fun things to do prompted her to share the thrill with women everywhere in the form of this book she wanted to write.

She wrote up a sample outline and some detailed chapters and showed them to publishers.  One publisher, Chronicle Books, liked her idea so much that they agreed to publish it when it was finished.  Lauren quit her job as a marketing and advertising agent, and started to write full time so it could be published.  She was so excited.

Unfortunately, she was affected by the events of 9/11 and unable to finish her book.  She was on flight 93, that crashed in Pennsylvania.  Her family is convinced she was part of the heroic effort to divert the plane from the intended target (either the White House or the Capitol) because of her EMT training.

Without prompting, her sisters took the project over.  They met with the publisher, gathered up her papers and picked up the writing where Lauren had left off.  Fortunately, they had her outlines and knew what she wanted it to look like.  When they were finished, they turned the book in to the publisher.  Instead of putting their names on the cover, they put the author as Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, their sister.  It took a few years of their efforts, but it was published in 2005.  

Additionally, they made sure the proceeds of the book were donated to charities that Lauren loved, like the scholarships for high school senior girls.  They also donated some of the money to build wings onto hospitals dedicated to helping women and women's shelters.
The sisters wrote in the book foreward, "Lauren imagined a book that would boost women's self esteem by helping them achieve their goals, realize their dreams and embrace life's joys and challenges to the fullest.  We all knew how much this book meant to her.  It has been an honor to make it a reality.  Use it to help you do and be your best."   

I like this story because it shows the love and support these sisters have for each other.  When one couldn't finish something important, the other two stepped in and helped out. 
For more information, see Grandcolas, Lauren Catuzzi The Merit Badge Handbook For Grown-up Girls Chronicle Books, San Francisco, California, 2005.

September 6, 2011

Welles Crowther, a Voluntary Hero on 9/11

Here is another story about a 9/11 hero for you.  Twenty-four year old Welles Crowther was born near New York city.  He enjoyed hearing the stories of heroism his fire-fighter dad would tell him over dinner.  His dad taught Welles and his siblings many skills that would help in a disaster.  For one, his dad always carried a bandana in his back pocket and taught his sons to do the same.  If there was an emergency, a bandana came in very handy.  Welles carried a red bandana in his back pocket, always, even when he wore a suit.

Although Welles always dreamed of being a fire-fighter like his dad, he went to college instead and got a job helping people make money on investments.  He was at work on September 11th behind a desk at the World Trade Center when the disaster hit.  He was on the 104th floor!  Because of all of the things his dad had taught him as a boy, Welles knew what to do to help get everyone to safety.  He pulled out his bandana and used it as a face mask to breathe in the smoky building.  Then he started helping people get out of the building.  He went down several floors, directing people to the stairwells, telling them to help each other to leave the building.  He urged the ones who weren’t hurt to help the ones who were.  At one point, he carried a young woman down several floors until someone else could help her get out.  He kept going back up stairs, helping people get to the stairwells and get to the bottom of the building and outside.  He exited and went back inside at least 3 times to help the trapped victims get to safety.  

That day, Welles saved at least 18 people’s lives using his unofficial training and his heart.  Most of his co-workers got out and went home.  Welles stayed to save others.   One blogger named Cassy Fiano wrote, “Welles Crowther was an investment banker, not a firefighter or a police officer. He could have easily just exited the building and got himself to safety with no shame whatsoever. Instead, he found the courage to go above and beyond what was required of him, helping many people out of the tower and saving countless lives.”  Granted, others didn’t have his training either, so they may not have been able to help.  Welles knew what to do and was there when it happened.  

I like this story because it shows that even things people learn when they are young can come in handy.  And, as one of the 18 he saved said, "If he hadn't come back, I wouldn't have made it. People can live 100 years and not have the compassion, the wherewithal to do what he did."  His courage and compassion, combined with the skills his dad taught him made him a hero.  Granted, he didn’t save thousands, or even hundreds, just 18 people. But those people and their families will always be glad he saved them.

Sometimes the things we learn from our childhoods help us to be able to help others.

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