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Putting things right

In the 1980’s I worked for the Corps of Engineers at the Pentagon. It was a demanding job and I was going to school at night getting an MBA. Not having a full night’s sleep just became a matter of course. However, this was nothing to complain about. The Army was picking up the tab. But this was the Army, and each course I took involved a complex set of forms and approvals.  There was a lot of bureaucracy involved in sending me to school.
That’s where Jenny (for purposes of the privacy of her family, this wasn’t her real name) comes in. Back in those days she was our administrative officer. She was young, my age, and I might add, rather nice to look at. Next to the General she was the most important person in the office. If you wanted to travel, buy new equipment, upgrade a position, or, in my case, do a degree program, she made it happen.   

Frequently, and this should be no surprise to anyone who has worked for the Army, my paperwork often went astray, or, from time-to-time, I am convinced, fell into a hole someplace. But each time things went wrong Jenny was there as she used to say “to put things right.” She had that mix of diplomacy and authority that make a good administrative officer.  Sometimes her remedy to whatever bureaucratic nightmare had befallen my training request was a phone call to our disbursing office, perhaps a visit to our training office and on one occasion a call to American University telling them to chill out and that they were going to get their money.  
We talked a lot. About life in general and about going back to school. Jenny was interested in the idea, but seemed to need a little help building up her nerve. I told her graduate school wasn’t so bad. Just drink lots of coffee. But I also admitted, that when I started, I wondered if I could handle it. She seemed to enjoy knowing that someone else had some of the same insecurities about going back to school she did.  
I lost track of Jenny in the years that followed. But her good natured approach to life, her constant care concerning my degree, and most of all, her willingness to put things right, gave her a special place in my heart. She was a good and decent person.
I left the Pentagon in 1993. Jenny stayed on and I understand went back to school and did well in her career. I am sure she brightened up every office she worked in. However, that all came to an end on 9/11. Jenny was amongst those who didn’t make it. I was both grieved and angered. And to this day I still don’t know quite how to react. Perhaps all I can say is that no matter how many years pass I hope that the memories of the good and decent people who died that day, like Jenny, never fade.  And that perhaps, in all that follows, as Jenny might have said, and as we deal with those who hurt so many, that maybe “we can put things right.”  
You may reach David Kerr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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