Incredible Goodness from Horrific Evil

Sometimes incredible goodness comes from horrific evil. This true story from Brian Doyle’s book, Eight Whopping Lies, illustrates this important truth.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 83 employees of the investment firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners were working in their company’s office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower. Sixty-six of those men and women died that day leaving behind 76 children.

(Source: Pixabay)

In the days that followed that awful event, Sandler O’Neill & Partners made several extraordinary decisions concerning the families of those who died. The company decided to pay those employees their full salaries and bonuses to the end of that year. In addition, their families would receive full employee benefits for the next ten years. And, within a week, the firm started a foundation to pay for college for all the children of those deceased employees.

I was deeply touched when I read what the company did—especially when I read the last one. After all, I am still a teacher. Doyle talked to the company about those children and learned that 54 of them had graduated, their tuitions paid in full. Twenty-two were still eligible for the free college tuition. The 54 that already graduated attended a wide range of colleges and universities—from community colleges and technical institutes to Princeton, Yale, Notre Dame, Fordham, Georgetown, Boston College, to name a few. (Boston College was the alma mater of 24-year-old employee Welles Crowther, who saved 11 people from death in the South Tower that day. The last time he was seen, he was running back up the stairs to save more people.)

Dozens of people have donated millions of dollars to this college foundation. Those who run the foundation receive no salaries. One of those men remarked, “You wouldn’t believe some of the letters the recipients have written in appreciation. They appreciate that we have remembered their mom or dad this way. Many of them hardly knew their moms and dads.” (The youngest of the 76 children was born six weeks after September 11.)

Doyle interviewed Jimmy Dunne, one of the surviving partners of the investment firm, and asked him, “Why did you decide to do this generous and extraordinary thing?”

Dunne gave several answers:

“Because I knew that how we conducted ourselves in those first hours and days would define who we are and what we were about.”

(Source: Pixabay)

“Because I knew this was the critical hour, and if we just got by without being honorable, then we stood for nothing.”

“Because I wanted to show (those who did this terrible deed), that we were people who lived and worked with honor. And that meant taking care of our people and their children with respect and reverence.”

As we begin a new year, it is good to remember this: Sometimes we human beings get it right. (Sometimes even Big Business or Corporate America gets it right.) Sometimes we human beings rise to the occasion. Sometimes we choose to do the right and honorable and loving thing. And sometimes horrific evil can give birth to incredible and far-reaching goodness. Amen.

Today I chose a song from the musical Rent. The song is called “525,600 Minutes.” That’s the number of minutes in a year. The song raises some good questions: how do you measure a year? How do you measure a man or a woman? The answer: measure them in love!


Do you have anything you’d like to share with us as we begin this new year together?

I want to wish each of you a very Happy and Blessed New Year! And thank you for reading my blog!

No Comments

  1. R.C.Salinas on January 1, 2018 at 6:19 am

    What a story, Sister Melanie. I’m reading this at 5:10 am of the first day of 2018. I live on our border with Mexico and have watched the terrible carnage which seems to have no end. Though I may not see the end of it Faith tells me in the words of an old song,”He” He alone knows where the rainbow ends. Reading that story helps me to stand by and encourage those who have to live with what’s going on.

  2. Beverly on January 1, 2018 at 7:52 am

    What a wonderful story to start the new year on! Such Hope!
    Thank you for always giving us those seeds of hope.

  3. John on January 1, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Thank you Sr. Melanie for your faithful service to us all. You are what is exemplified in 1 Tim 1:12 – I was directed to this passage this morning when reading and reflecting on gratitude.

  4. John Hopkins on January 1, 2018 at 8:36 am

    O, Sr. Melannie! My eyes are full of tears! So, so beautiful! Thank you.

  5. Ida on January 1, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Wow!! What a song, what a great 911 story, and a great tribute to Brian Doyle, who I believe has gone on. Wonderful message to start 2018! Thank you!

  6. Char on January 1, 2018 at 9:16 am

    What An Honorable Company!

  7. Suzanne on January 1, 2018 at 9:42 am

    At Mass Sunday the pastor told us he and his staff visited the new Bible Museum and learned that Romans 12:12 is the most quoted verse in the bible. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and be constant in prayer.” This seems to be a good motto for the New year as we face so many challenges in our world today. The story you shared, Sr Melannie, is one of hope and love for humankind in the midst of a tragedy. May we continue to be hopeful and share God’s love and goodness with the world.

    • Carol Kapostasy on January 1, 2018 at 11:26 pm

      Sobering words to live by Suzanne! I will post this where I can be reminded of this message every day. Thank you for sharing & inspiring.

  8. Patty on January 1, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Happy 2018, Sister.

  9. PAM GUNN on January 1, 2018 at 2:27 pm


  10. Joe Johnson on January 1, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    No pass Nada – which translates out to, “It’s all good.”
    Thank you for reminding me that “it’s all good!”
    Happy New Year, sister.

  11. Sr Patrick Joseph, snd on January 1, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Happy New Year , Sr. Melannie, wow ,What a great reminder that
    much good can come from evil when the Lord is Lord do all! I did. Of realize all the good that the company did for its people. May the Lord bless
    You for all the ❤️ love you. Are us aware of. Many blessings to you.❤️

  12. Carol Kapostasy on January 1, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    It’s almost the end of the first day of 2018 and I purposefully wanted to read Sunflower Seeds until now. I wanted to end this hopeful beginning of a new year with the story & song I knew would set the tone for where I want to plant myself. You help me to grow & bloom with your weekly posts. I can’t begin my week without it! I also reflected on your vignettes in “EVERY DAY EPIPHANIES”……your ministry of spreading THE WORD makes me a better person. Thank you.

  13. Kathy Donnermeyer on January 2, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Back at work today, still thinking it is Monday, but I am reading this on Tuesday, after all.

    Thank you so much for all of your reflections, and Happy New Year!

  14. Frances on January 4, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Happy New Year, Sister Melanie and all the readers of Sunflower Seeds.

  15. Lisa Simmons D'Amore on January 7, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Sr. Melanie, I have a demanding schedule and often search my email for your blog when I need to strengthen my footing and connect with holiness. I am always fed. Thank you for the myriad of topics and the great care you take to present them to us. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless you in your rich ministries.

  16. Cynthia Nemeckay on January 10, 2018 at 5:10 am

    Dear Sister, Thank you for sharing this information. There is so much good in humanity. The article inspires me to rise to the occasion and do good even as I go about and clean at night with my job. Blessings to you, Sister. I love your writing. It heals and touches my soul.

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