From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Two Heroes for the Price of One

When I saw her on the Good Morning America show being interviewed by Charles Gibson the morning of December 11, she looked pretty much like the other widows I had seen since September 11: Her face still registered that awful sadness, that deeply etched worry for herself and her family left behind since the death of her husband, Harry Ramos. And, yes, there it was that bittersweet pride when others referred to her husband as a hero. But what struck me about Migdalia Ramos was something else. She was angry.

Migdalia Ramos was sitting next to the widow of the man that her husband had rushed back into the World Trade Center to try to save. Both of them died. Harry Ramos was the head trader at the May Davis Group, a small investment firm on the eighty-seventh floor of Tower One. All the other employees of May Davis got out. I understood immediately why Migdalia Ramos seemed angry. I felt anger too at the television program that had brought these two women together just for a good story. Didn’t they see the pain here?

The television program centered on the coincidences between the two men—things I thought were really irrelevant—like the fact that Victor Wald, the man Harry Ramos had tried to save, had the same name as the best man at the Ramos’s wedding or that both couples had a child named Alex. The only relevant link between these two women was the fact that they both had husbands who died just because they went to work that morning.

But one of them had had a chance to save himself and had not taken it. Migdalia Ramos spoke about her anger—not at Rebecca or Victor Wald but at her own husband. She just couldn’t understand then why he had gone back in. I understood how she felt. How could he leave her and his children with all the responsibilities that they had to face? Couples should be there for each other, should cleave to one another. And if everyone else at his firm had gotten out, why hadn’t Harry? He made a choice and the consequences of it didn’t just affect him. It affected his whole family.

Then Migdalia Ramos told about another incident in her life. Her mother had died on September 1. The management of her mother’s apartment building had told Mrs. Ramos that she would have to clear out the apartment by September 30. So, on September 30, Mrs. Ramos together with other family members went to her mother’s apartment. While they were hauling out boxes and furniture, the fire alarm sounded. The hallway quickly filled with smoke. Mrs. Ramos did what every mother would do, what every right-thinking responsible person would do—she got her child and her relatives to safety.

But then, without thinking, she did something else: Migdalia Ramos ran right back into a burning building, up seven flights of stairs, to get her mother’s blind neighbor out.

She did what Harry did. And, probably like Harry, she did it without thinking, reflexively, because whatever was in Harry that made him act that way was in her, too. That “something” made her forget every other aspect of her life and focus on someone else, someone who needed help.

Migdalia didn’t use the word “hero” once in her interview. I don’t think she thinks of herself that way. She just did what needed to be done. A lot of people called her husband a hero. He was, but not just because he went back into the World Trade Center. To Migdalia and her family, Harry Ramos was probably a hero just because he got out of bed every morning.

Migdalia Ramos lost a lot—her husband, her lover, her best friend. But maybe Migdalia Ramos found something, too. Maybe she found that the best qualities in her husband had rubbed off on her.

Personally, I think they were there all along.

Migdalia Ramos said that what happened at her mother’s apartment building made her understand her husband’s motives. She thought he was sending her a message.

I heard a message from this woman on my TV screen. There’s something inside some of us—inside, I think, most of us. It’s something good and decent and brave and unselfish. It’s that best part of ourselves, that part that rises to the surface unquestioning, without thought, the simple act of caring for and about another human being. In a world where there are those who only exist to cause pain and terror, Mrs. Ramos’ message is timely. It is a message for all of us, of hope.

Marsha Arons

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