It has been nearly four years since I visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, but as we mark the 20th anniversary of that day this month, I took a moment to reflect on what most affected me from the exhibits. There were several displays that triggered anger and fear and sadness; it was the “Dear Hero” collection, however, that imbued me with some measure of hope. In the days and weeks following September 11, 2001, people, many of them children, from around the world sent letters and drawings to New York fire departments, thanking them for their bravery and service. That there was such an outpouring of humanity in the face of unfathomable hate reminded me that there are good folks out there who care deeply about those they’ve never even met.
I felt a similar swell of optimism when I read senior staff writer Robert Sanchez’s “Dear Colorado…”. Elijah McClain died on August 30, 2019, several days after Aurora Police officers, without reasonable suspicion, forced him to the ground, placed him in a chokehold, and watched as he was injected with a powerful sedative. His killing went mostly unnoticed until George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. As the country learned more about McClain’s death, the need to respond—to do something, anything—compelled roughly 8,500 letter writers from outside of Colorado to pen missives asking Governor Jared Polis to deliver justice. Sanchez was the first and only reporter to read through all of them. Although his prose is poignant, Sanchez lets the words of everyday Americans deliver a powerful message, one that I hope both buoys Coloradans’ spirits and emboldens them to live compassionately.