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The 2,996

I never knew Charles Antoine Lesperance. I might never have known who he was, but one day I was given a bracelet bearing his name and, just below it, the letters “WTC”, signifying the place where he was murdered five years ago today.

Fifty-five years old, Mr. Lesperance was a systems analyst for the New York State Department of Transportation. He left behind three daughers, one of whom shares my first name. He’s remembered in tributes as an excellent cook who loved music so much that he had season tickets to the opera. His pictures show a big broad grin, with gleaming white teeth, and twinkling dark eyes lighting up his deep brown face.

Why am I wearing a bracelet commemorating someone I never knew? Because his life mattered. Because he was created in the image of God. Because the world is a poorer place without him.

One hundred years ago, American writer O. Henry published an anthology titled The Four Million. Its introduction begins: “Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were only ‘Four Hundred’ people in New York City who were really worth noticing. ” O. Henry disagreed, and penned 25 short stories about the lives of a fictitious few who represented the 4 million “ordinary” New Yorkers, the Charles Lesperances of a century ago. The well loved Christmas story The Gift of the Magi is part of that anthology.

No doubt the hijackers and their backers, their vision distorted by resentment, would disagree that there are even 400 New Yorkers worth noticing, or worth living. But they would be wrong. Every one of the 2,996 people who died as a result of those attacks mattered. If the hijackers had understood that simple truth, September 11 would be just another “ordinary” day.