His brother was at the Istanbul airport during an attack. Here's what it made him realize about hope.

Three little dots.

Today I prayed for three little dots. Today I begged for three little dots. Today my future depended on three little dots.

Today, while at lunch with coworkers celebrating a birthday, I got a text from my brother: "Something's happening at the airport. I love you guys."


At first I didn’t think twice of it, but then I quickly grabbed my phone.

“What do you mean?” I responded.

I waited for those three little dots to show that he was responding. Nothing.

My heart began to race. I jumped on Twitter and searched "Istanbul." The first tweet that came up read, "Two explosions reported at Istanbul airport."

I went numb.

72 hours earlier, I had dropped off my brother and his girlfriend, Kristine, at the Burbank Airport for the start of a European vacation they’d been looking forward to for months.

Photo by Noah Reich, used with permission.

Kristine had just graduated from nursing school at UCLA, and my brother had just finished the TV show he was working on. The timing could not have been more perfect for this trip, other than that they were embarking on a two-week adventure with no Wi-Fi on the night of the "Game of Thrones" finale.

"We landed in Turkey. Long flight but I slept through most of it. We’re going to stay in the lounge tonight and explore the city tomorrow." — Brother

"You best rest up and watch GoT while you have that Wi-Fi." — Me

A few minutes later, my brother texted my mom and me a photo of a guy sitting in front of his laptop that had a ship on it.

"This dude is watching last week’s episode." — Brother

"Well maybe he’ll go right into yesterday’s episode." — Mom

A couple hours had passed. My phone dinged.

"Well, I took mom’s advice and watched the next episode with him. He’s a Russian dude that didn’t speak a lick of English so he had Russian subtitles on. We didn’t share a language but after each crazy development we shared a universal gasp and tsk tsk tsk type response. Lol" — Brother

On my eighth birthday, my brother and I were robbed at knifepoint for a pair of Air Jordans.

My brother chased after the thief and ended up getting hit by a car that had jumped a light. That feeling of seeing my brother lying in the middle of a busy intersection motionless has haunted me through my entire life. That day, I was robbed of a pair of shoes and my innocence.

Three years later, the Columbine shooting took place. I was 10 years old. My brother and I would walk to school, and he would drop me off at the entrance of my elementary school while he proceeded to his middle school several blocks away. Every day, I’d fear that a scene like Columbine would take place at his school. Each day at 3:30 p.m., a wave of relief would overtake me when he arrived to pick me up.

That anxiety that was planted decades ago has been watered time and time again from 9/11 to the police shootings earlier this month.

Through my life, I have had to give credence to the quiet whisper that arises from my guts asking whether it’s safe to go to a movie theater, a concert, or a restaurant.

In the past few months, there have been shootings at two places I consider home — my alma mater (UCLA) and a gay club. When it comes to not feeling safe, I have enough fuel to keep me going for the rest of my life ... and that was before today.

As I waited to hear back from my brother, I frantically paced back and forth down Ventura Boulevard.

I thought of the frantic text messages that Mina Justice received from her son Eddie on the night of the Pulse nightclub shooting. I thought of the fear that was going through my brother and Kristine at the airport hearing active gunshots and the windows of the lounge being shattered by an explosion.

I thought of the phone call that I was going to have to make to my mom informing her of everything. I thought of that 8-year-old boy standing in the middle of the intersection years ago having to imagine what life was going to be like without his best friend.

And then, there they were: three little dots.

"We heard gunshots and an explosion. We’re in someone’s room at the hotel hiding. I’ll keep you posted as best I can." — Brother

My brother and Kristine escaped from the airport lounge they were hiding in by crawling from cover to cover over shattered glass. They made their way to an adjoining hotel where they knocked on doors until someone opened one. It was a couple from Spain who were there celebrating their honeymoon. After several hours, they were evacuated from the airport crossing over more shattered glass, dried blood, and the sound of sirens wailing.

I’m thankful that my brother and Kristine are OK, but my heart breaks for the hundreds of families who were not as lucky today. It terrifies me to have to imagine what it was like at that terminal, and it sends shivers down my spine knowing how lucky Adam and Kristine were.

I’m sick and tired of being afraid.

I don’t want to live in a world where I question my safety at each turn and the intentions of those around me. I don’t want to live in a world of Brexit and Donald Trump, where fear is a motivating factor for how we live our lives.

I want to live in a world where a random Russian guy who doesn’t speak English will scoot over and let you sit next to him to watch the "Game of Thrones" finale. I want to live in a world where a couple from Spain on their honeymoon will open their door for you amidst a terrorist attack and provide you with shelter.

Despite everything that’s occurred today, that is the world that I believe we live in.

True

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."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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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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