Today: Sally Goodrich, who from the tragic loss of her son, uplifted the lives of thousands of people.
On 9/11, 2001 United Flight 175 with 65 people on board was seized by terrorists who slammed it into the South Tower of New York’s World Trade Center.
The plane exploded with enormous force, sending a massive orange ball of flames and thick gray acidic smoke into the sky.
All 65 people on board were instantly incinerated, among them Sally’s 33 year old son Peter, a computer software technician. The news crushed her, leaving her a quivering tearful wreck.
The situation grew worse when Sally was subsequently diagnosed with cancer. She had been a warm outgoing person but from her son’s death and the cancer, she sunk into a deep depression.
Meanwhile Don, her husband of 37 years and Peter’s father and father to the couple’s other two children was also devastated by his profound loss and by his wife’s intense suffering. With Sally’s agreement, he started Families of September 11, a support organization and advocacy group for other families immersed in grief.
But Sally spent most of her time in the couple’s Vermont home trying to find answers as to how a group of 19 young men would sacrifice their own lives and take with them the lives of nearly 3000 others in one horrific event.
Sally had been a school teacher and an administrator and heavily involved with children and their families but she had no answers until she heard from a childhood friend of her son, Marine Major Rush Filson, who was serving in Afghanistan.
He told her how children live in abject poverty in Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest nations. The average life span for this country of 29 million people is just 44 years of age and the literacy rate is only 28%, meaning nearly 3/4’s of Afghanis can’t read or write. Worse yet, seldom are girls even allowed to attend school.
Knowing Sally’s background as an educator, he appealed to her to help provide supplies to an Afghan teacher in desperate need in a girl’s school. For Sally, the light suddenly went on as she realized she could make a difference and she and Don raised funds and bought those school supplies.
But Sally started thinking much bigger. What if she and Don built an Afghan school for girls? Was that possible? She met with David Edwards, a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts and an expert on Afghanistan.
He arranged meetings with Afghan officials and other influential people and he and Sally went to Afghanistan. Together, they chose a local Afghan community, which welcomed them and offered their ideas as well.
The result was that the Afghan community and Sally selected a site and designed a two story, 26 room school to teach 500 students at a time, from kindergarten through 8th grade. But to build and maintain that school and hire its teachers and staff would require raising a staggering quarter of a million dollars! It seemed impossible.
But when Sally returned to America and spread the word, everyone wanted to help. She and Don organized a campaign which included churches, synagogues and mosques, schools and clubs, friends and neighbors and other donors.
They not only successfully raised the funding for the school, which opened in 2006, but enough additional money to pay for community clean water wells, special tricycles for children who were landmine victims and even a dental clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capitol.
That’s not all. Their organization, The Peter M. Goodrich Foundation, named for their late son continues to raise money and sponsors Afghan students to attend U.S. schools in New England.
14 exchange students have come, most staying in the Goodrich’s small Vermont home. This lets these students meet Americans and see what life is like here, as they further their education.
The program has worked so well, some of these students have now obtained scholarships to attend New England colleges and will hopefully return to Afghanistan as college graduates and help provide educational opportunities for others.
Meanwhile, Sally made repeated trips to Afghanistan, getting to know its people and its culture.
She saw many homes which lack running water, indoor plumbing and electricity and from filthy drinking water, one in eight children die from contamination. With such primitive conditions, and little medical care, one in five children dies before the age of five.
As a result, Sally felt compelled to do more. In addition to the students, she helped those most in need, orphans. She set up a safe Afghan orphanage in a nation overrun with orphans from the U.S. War with the Taliban. In many cases those children would be left to otherwise try to survive penniless on the dangerous drug infested streets.
“This is really Peter’s journey,” Sally explained to the Boston Globe in 2005, while visiting Logar province south of Kabul, as the girl’s school was being built. “I am living to move my child’s life forward.” * And live she did as she found greater meaning in life in that poverty driven nation.
Sally stayed actively involved in Afghanistan for the rest of her life, until on December 18, 2010, at the age of 65, she died of ovarian cancer. She is survived by Don, her husband of 46 years, and by another son and daughter and five grandchildren.
But she is also survived by a thousand Afghan girls who have attended the school she and Don started and by those girl’s families and by the communities they will influence.
Sally is also survived by people who will do something special with their lives other than become terrorists, for they will see a brighter future for themselves.
“I have regained my sense of trust and hope, and I have seen the best of human nature,” Sally told ABC News as their “Person of the Week” in 2005. “I’ve been the most unfortunate of women, but I am now the most fortunate of women.”
Success Tip of the Week:
Is there a charitable cause you believe in? If so, make this the week you get involved, either to volunteer some time or to make a financial donation.
*Quote is from “Remembrances: Sally Goodrich 1945 – 2010: Founder of a School for Afghan Girls,” The Wall Street Journal; 12-22-10. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704118504576034023862658268.html
In the next KazanToday:
A World War II pilot whose life was saved by Pacific Islanders, who he later repaid many times over.
To learn more about Sally, please visit “ABC World News Person of the Week: Sally Goodrich.” http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/PersonOfWeek/story?id=1071393&page=1
If you would like to learn more about the wonderful work of The Peter M. Goodrich Foundation, please visit: www.goodrichfoundation.org/