Niagara Gazette

December 19, 2012

GLYNN: NBC reporter offers way to recover from tragedy

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When Ann Curry was fired earlier this year as a full-time anchor on NBC's "Today" show, she gave an emotional on-camera farewell speech before her departure. 

She said that when venturing into dangerous places, interviewing dictators, jumping off bridges and climbing mountains, and landing in the South Pole, she was doing it all for the viewers. "I have loved you," she told them, "And I have wanted to give you the world. And I still do."

On Tuesday, she kept her word. She gave people around the globe fervent hope and deep inspiration about how to cope with the overwhelming grief triggered by the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

After the nightmare in that quiet community, Curry said to herself: "What if? Imagine if everyone could commit to doing one act of kindness for everyone of those children killed in Newtown." So that's what she tweeted and it took off from there.

Curry's message spread. "It was remarkable how many people responded," she said. "They are the ones who carried the ball. They are the ones who chose what to do."

In less than 24 hours, tens of thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook not only joined the crusade, they increased Curry's suggestion to 26 acts of kindness, to include the teachers who died trying to protect the children. One of the tweets came from Borneo.

Curry's campaign is based on the premise that if you do good, you'll feel good. 

A few shining examples of how people responded:

• "I don't earn much, but donated 10 percent of this week's paycheck to National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI is dear to my heart.

• "Just gave a $20 Subway gift card to a homeless woman in Chicago."

• "I will bake cookies for those in the hospital over Christmas with no family."

• "Surprised construction workers on a cold, rainy day with hot coffee." 

• " I bought 26 pairs of socks and I am leaving them for the patients being treated for radiation tomorrow."

• "I can't afford to help anyone financially but took my sweet dog with me to visit with my blind next door neighbor." 

• "I went to ToysRUs and paid off someone's layaway. Felt invigorating."

• “I was the second person today to pay in line for the car behind them."

• "Just paid the school fees for 26 children with AIDS in Mombasa, Kenya." 

BEHIND THE IDEA: Asked to explain her motive for the 26 Acts of Kindness, Curry traced it to an experience in 2007 when she was assigned to report on the genocide in Darfur in western Sudan.

She remembered meeting an elderly woman in a hospital, recovering from burns after an attack by Janjaweed militias. "Many other women also were there, carrying babies and I asked her about the terrible burns all over her body." It was explained that she had tried to rescue her invalid husband when her house was set on fire. While attempting to carry her husband to safety, the thatched roof fell on them and the hot embers gave her third degree burns. The husband died.

As she left the hospital, feeling depressed and helpless, she went to the TV producer's van to get the Polaroid she had brought on the assignment. She then slipped back to the hospital courtyard where all the women were with their children.

"I knew they had never owned a photograph of their child so I took all their pictures, with their child or just the child alone," she recalled. One woman seemed puzzled by the black square on the fresh print but suddenly she was thrilled to see the child's face appear on the Polaroid.

Curry said she continued snapping photos until the film had run out. "It made me feel better," she said.

Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.