SheHeroes Beyond the 11th

One of my favorite mythological creatures has always been the Phoenix. Some of you not familiar with Greek mythology may actually recognize the Phoenix as Professor Dumbledore’s pet bird, Fawkes in the Harry Potter series. Professor Dumbledore gives the easiest and most basic description of a Phoenix when he explains, “Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes.” The Phoenix is the ultimate symbol of renewing oneself after suffering loss. When I see people suffer tremendous losses and reemerge again out of the ashes of those losses I am always reminded of the Phoenix.

Recently I was pointed towards to the story of two amazing SheHeroes and after reading their story, I wiped my tears away, and found that all I could picture were images of a Phoenix rising up through the ashes to become brighter and even more beautiful then before.

For Susan Retik those flames were the same flames that we all watched on September 11th 2001, her loss was her beloved husband. She was pregnant with a baby girl at the time whom she gave birth to shortly after 9/11. Instead of succumbing to the grief of becoming a widow with three young children, she instead found a way to not only rise above that grief but turn it into something good. Almost as if she was turning on a bright light in an otherwise dark situation.

Susan, along with Patti Quigley, who had also lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks, created a nonprofit organization that they called, Beyond the 11th, in the spring of 2002. Beyond the 11th helps raise money for nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that help widows in Afghanistan learn sustainable skills so that they can find jobs. These widows of 9/11 have turned their lives into helping other women and have helped over 10,000 women so far.

“When the U.S. began to invade Afghanistan, I looked across oceans and continents to the women in Afghanistan who were widowed as a result of the same terrorist network that had killed my husband," Retik tells the Huffington Post. "I just felt a kinship with them and thought, 'What kind of support are they receiving after their husbands are murdered or die -- who supports them?'”

In 2004 they held their first fundraiser, a bike ride from Ground Zero to Boston and back, in which they raised almost $160,000. Susan went on to win the Citizens Medal in 2010. She has since remarried and her entire family devotes their lives to helping raise money and helping others.

I can’t imagine a better way to describe Susan and Patti (as well as their families) as a beautiful Phoenix who has risen above the ashes of their great tragedy to bring more beauty, compassion and light into the world than there was before.

These women are truly the essence of what SheHeroes are.

Check out the trailer from the new documentary that tells Susan and Patti’s story, “Beyond Belief."

Beyond Belief trailer from Principle Pictures on Vimeo.

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