Letters of sympathy and support poured into the firehouse from around the world, but one stood out: Charlene Klein, from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, wrote with the invitation to call her anytime. In the depths of my grief, I felt compelled to reach out to her. From our first conversation, it seemed as if we had known each other forever. Soon boxes of plush robes wrapped in bows arrived at the firehouse for all the grieving women. “When I need comfort,” Charlene said, “a big, cozy robe is the best thing.”
Since then, I’ve traveled to Wisconsin more than a dozen times and Charlene has come to New York to meet my “fire family.” We’ve gone on trips together to Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and when I went to Hawaii to celebrate my sixtieth birthday, Charlene went with me.
“We’re like sisters,” Charlene always says. We laugh together. We cry together. We talk on the phone every day. Charlene’s picture sits next to Dennis’s on my desk, and I still wear the robe she gave me 18 years ago.