A cop picked up a donated helmet on 9/11. Months later, he found a note inside.

At 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2017, Roy Guill woke up to a Facebook message from a man he'd never met.

The man, Eric Delman, explained that he'd been going through some stuff from 9/11 for the previous day's anniversary. He wanted to know if Guill was from Staten Island.

But it wasn't Delman's message that struck Guill. It was what Delman was wearing in his profile photo: a yellow, coal miner's helmet with a bracket on the front where the headlamp used to be and a dent in the brim.


“It was a picture of him at Ground Zero on the pile, and I looked at the picture for a second and I thought, 'Holy shit. Is that Papaw’s helmet?'"

Photo via Eric Delman.

In the wee hours of Sept. 11, 2001, Guill was passed out on his boss's couch in their midtown Manhattan office.

He was still asleep when his boss woke him with the news of the attacks a few dozen blocks away.

"The first thing I thought was, 'But it’s such a beautiful day,'" he recalls.

Like thousands of other New Yorkers living and working in the city that day, Guill's account is one of having "just missed" being swallowed up in the carnage. He had stayed the night at work after pulling a long overnight shift. Otherwise, he might have been stranded on the subway under the towers when the planes struck.

Instead, he and a colleague fled the city in a minivan they had rented the previous day.

Guill traveled nearly 200 miles that afternoon: north to Westchester County, south to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, north again to the Tappan Zee Bridge, east to Queens, and south to Brooklyn. When he finally rolled across the Verrazano, it was just after midnight on Sept. 12.

"By that point, the smell had hit us. We rolled down our window to talk to a cop, and you could smell the fire," he says.

The next morning, he and his wife Julia lined up near their Staten Island home to give blood. A nurse turned them away. "There was no one to give blood to," he recalled on Facebook.

Instead, they stocked up on soap, deodorant, and socks from a local dollar store — the only store within walking distance — and prepared to drop them at a collection point near the ferry terminal. On their way out of the house, they stopped at a coat rack by the door. The rack was covered in hats, scarves, jackets — and an an odd item that caught Guill's eye.

A yellow coal mining helmet.

He picked up a pen and a piece of paper.

When Eric Delman, an NYPD officer, arrived downtown Manhattan the afternoon of the attacks, the area was already a ruin.

"It was horrible. That stench of a lot of smoke, and that very bad — the smoke and the smell and the death," he recalls.  

The following day — or maybe the day after — Delman reported to a supply tent. It was full of respirators, work clothing, boots, and helmets. He picked out one that he liked, an "old-style" yellow miner's cap.  

Delman worked on a bucket brigade. He cleared stones. Rebar. Eventually, body parts. He would come home with his clothes covered in a thick gray dust. His wife washed them every day. He seemed haunted.

The yellow miner's helmet stayed with him the whole time. As he dug through "the pile," the mass of rubble left behind when the towers crumbled, the helmet was there. As the news of dead friends trickled in like bilge water, the helmet was there. After Delman's tour at Ground Zero ended, the helmet made its way to a shelf in his garage. Sometimes, he would take it down to look at it. One day, as he was turning it over in his hands, he gasped.

"There's a note!"

Photo by Eric Delman.

A small, creased tab of white paper was stuck to the inside. He had never noticed it before.

"To whoever wears this," it read. "This was my grandfather's helmet in the mines of Kentucky. I hope it protects you well. You are all heroes."

The note was signed, "Roy and Julia Guill."

Guill's papaw, Roy W. Guill, was born, grew up, raised seven children, worked, and died in Carrsville, Kentucky.

One of the few pictures of Papaw that remains was taken before his brief detour to the Pacific theater of World War II, where he served as a combat engineer. He never talked about it.

Roy W. Guill. Photo via Roy Guill.

Papaw wore bib overalls. Some nights, on his way home, he would save his granddaughter Angi a treat leftover from his lunchpail. When Guill told him he wanted to chew tobacco, Papaw tried to dissuade him by giving him a pinch of Prince Albert. He warned him not to swallow it — about three seconds too late.

When Papaw woke up at 5 a.m. to go to work, Guill would sit with him, nodding off between bites of pancake as his grandfather suited up in a side room near a potbellied stove. When he went off to the mine, the helmet went with him.

Papaw passed away at age 81, when Guill was 14. After the funeral, Guill's father gave his grief-stricken son the helmet.

It was the only physical reminder of his grandfather Guill possessed.

Or, it had been.

On Sept. 11, 2017, Guill took the day off from work — as he occasionally does on the anniversary of the attacks.

He rarely talks about what he saw that day 16 years earlier.

"It’s so hard, and emotionally it’s such a slog, but we were so lucky," he says.

The Facebook message from Delman was like a bolt out of the blue.

After Guill confirmed that, yes, he was from Staten Island, Delman sent a photo: the same photo Guill had seen in Delman's profile picture.

"Does this look familiar?" Delman wrote. "This is me at the time."

Photo via Eric Delman.

The photo of Delman wearing the helmet had been taken by a fellow officer shortly after the attacks. When that friend fell ill 10 years later, he found and sent the photo to Delman. This year, Delman made it his profile photo to commemorate the anniversary.

Guill had often wondered what happened to Papaw's hard hat from the mines. He worried it had been thrown out, that it hadn't been up to code, or had been overlooked in a vast sea of donated tools and gear. Here, finally, was proof: Not only had someone — Delman — used it, it had meant enough to him that he kept it.

"Honestly, I sat here in my dining room and bawled my eyes out," Guill says.

Delman is now a lieutenant who oversees the 88th Precinct's Special Operations Unit. His time at Ground Zero left him with nodules in his lungs. He gets them checked every year. So far, so good.

He told Guill to expect the helmet on his doorstep soon.

"There’s a box on my kitchen table for me to send it back," he says. Before he does, he wants to add a few touches. A T-shirt, perhaps, with some patches. Some coins. Maybe both.

It may take a while to reach its destination. Guill left New York 13 years ago. He lives in Las Vegas now. He imagines it will show up in about a week.

Guill doesn't know if he's prepared. But his papaw's helmet is coming home.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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