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An In-Flight Chat Got This Deployed Marine Letters From Little Ones, And A Lifelong Friend13:37
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Sometimes friends come into our lives at the exact moment they are needed. This is precisely what happened between LynnEllen Friedman, 65, and Timothy Tucker, 26. They tell their own story for WBUR's Kind World.


LynnEllen Friedman: We were at Midway Airport in Chicago. It was Sept. 11, 2011.

Timothy Tucker: I was flying out of Midway, because I used to fly with Southwest a lot back then.

Friedman: We’re sitting there, we got there early. And I see like three or four girls crying. So I walk over to one of the girls, and I said, "Are you OK? Can I do anything? Why are you crying?" And she said, "Oh, he's going to Afghanistan." And I said, "Who?!" And they point to this kid, and I'm thinking, "He's 12 years old.”

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Tucker: I sat down first, because I was part of the advanced boarding group.

Friedman: We get on the plane, and this kid's got headsets on, chewing gum, leaning his head against the window and really looking like he wants to have zero conversation with two middle-aged people sitting next to him whatsoever.

Tucker: She sat down next to me, and she started chatting my ear off.

Friedman: He told us he was going to Afghanistan in like 10 days or something, and of course, my heart was beating so fast.

Tucker: Then she had gone into detail about how she helped out at an elementary school in downtown LA. And that's when she had suggested initially that maybe if we exchanged contact information, then she could have the students at the elementary school write me letters while I was deployed.

Friedman: The next day, I got an email from him saying that you know, “Hi, this is Timothy Tucker, you met me on the plane.” And he said, "Well I'm interested." And I said, "OK, I'll go back to the school, and I'll see what we can do."

"She's got this electrifying personality where I really enjoyed talking to her, and it seemed very apparent to me that it wasn't just a chance occurrence ..."

Timothy Tucker

Tucker: She's got this electrifying personality where I really enjoyed talking to her, and it seemed very apparent to me that it wasn't just a chance occurrence that she would sit next to me, and be so forward, and be so open.

Friedman: I felt like if I could help this one person that maybe I could just somehow protect him and keep him OK, knowing that somebody other than his family was thinking of him.

Tucker: Once we got into Afghanistan, it was … mind on a million other things.

Timothy Tucker in the Sangin District of Afghanistan during his first deployment in 2011. (Courtesy of Timothy Tucker)
Timothy Tucker in the Sangin District of Afghanistan during his first deployment in 2011. (Courtesy of Timothy Tucker)

Friedman: We made big poster boards, and we put hearts on them and flags and stars, and we hung them up all over the school. And the kids wrote some of the most endearing, hysterical letters you've ever read.

A letter from Andrew, a student at Crescent Heights Language Arts Social Justice Magnet, sent to Timothy Tucker. (Courtesy of Timothy Tucker)
A letter from Andrew, a student at Crescent Heights Language Arts Social Justice Magnet, sent to Timothy Tucker. (Courtesy of Timothy Tucker)

Tucker: It was just a humbling moment to know that there were all these people that were very ready to, you know, show us love and support.

Friedman: I think I got a letter that he was coming back and he was going to be in LA. And I asked him, "Do you think you could come to the school?" And he said, "Absolutely."

Tucker: I thought it was a cool idea because then, you know, these kids could put a face to the name that they were sending all these letters to.

Crescent Heights Language Arts Social Justice Magnet School in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2012. (Courtesy of LynnEllen Friedman)
Crescent Heights Language Arts Social Justice Magnet School in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2012. (Courtesy of LynnEllen Friedman)

Friedman: And he came to school, and all I could do was cry. “You're home! You're safe! You're home!” And just cry.

Tucker: She was trying very hard to contain herself, but she was failing miserably.

Friedman: It was really quite a touching scene to see ... all of these children couldn’t wait to see Timothy Tucker. He was like their hero.

"All I could do was cry. 'You're home! You're safe! You're home!' And just cry."

LynnEllen Friedman

Tucker: I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

Friedman: He's in Virginia now, and I'm so glad of the direction he's gone into, this aerospace engineering. He's matured. He's really matured. You know … no more tattoos!

Tucker: I don't know if I could ever adequately express my gratitude, because I didn't have anybody else that was putting in that same effort and that same kind of time. She'll be at my wedding. She's going to meet my kids. I don't hesitate to claim her as a member of my family.

Friedman: We have met in this universe for a reason. Whether it's come to pass yet, I don't know. But it's there.

This segment aired on June 4, 2019.

Andrea Asuaje Twitter Reporter/Producer, Kind World
Andrea Asuaje is a reporter and producer in WBUR’s iLab, where she makes Kind World. She is honored to share these emotional and impactful stories of hope, love and compassion with the WBUR audience.

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