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It's 9/11 and These Women Are My Heroes:
Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba

September 11, 2014

Every year 9/11 brings back memories and emotions. For me it also brings back a deep appreciation for the heroes who stepped forward in so many ways to help.

Two heroes who came to my attention after the media coverage had settled down were women who lived in my town, Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba.

I got to know them and became so impressed with the mission they had quietly taken upon themselves, at their own expense and with no guarantee of success, that they became my heroes.

In celebration of the hero (or shero!) we ALL have within us,



In the terrifying aftermath of 9/11, while we were still reeling from the horror and tragedy, my friends Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba swooped in quietly behind the scenes to take the action that makes them heroes to me.

It started when they noticed the media describing the undeniable courage and sacrifice of the first-responders almost exclusively in masculine terms: firemen, policemen, "the brothers, and "our brave guys".

References to the equally courageous and sacrificing female first-responders were strangely absent.

These women -- firefighters, law enforcement officers, medical personnel and so on -- who had rushed in to save lives, and even laid down their own, were invisible.

Susan and Mary wanted these heroic women recognized along with their male colleagues. And they wanted children everywhere to grow up with these strong and resourceful female role models.

So they set out to find these women and bring us their stories.

Without knowing exactly who these women were or how to locate them, they flew from California to New York and started asking around.

As they began to find women to interview and earned their trust, other women stepped forward.

Often the women presented a tough exterior, necessary in their lines of work, that gave way mid-interview to vulnerability and the need to have their stories heard.

The interviews were long, tiring, and emotional; and almost everyone cried, including Susan and Mary. 

For many of the women, it was the first time they had told their whole story, from beginning to end. Susan and Mary then shared these interviews with the world in their book, "Women at Ground Zero".

To this day, every time I pick up the book I tear up. I feel the strength, the power, and the vulnerability of the women in it. I feel gratitude for their sacrifice. And I feel proud of my gender.

Copyright Martia Nelson 2011

Get your copy of
Women At Ground Zero:
Stories of Courage and Compassion


Visit Susan Hagen and Mary Carouba at their website

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