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Many years ago, my mother was married to a man (my stepfather at the time) who had a sister who I thought was great, but never met. She was a big-shot lawyer in New York who came from a good family. She was in her early 30’s, a true success and she was so cool.

As a 15-year-old small town girl with big city dreams, I would sometimes imagine myself visiting VERY FANCY “Aunt Ericka” in New York even though I hadn’t actually met her. I talked to her on the phone from time to time about what I was doing, about college and I knew that I wanted to be like her even though I hadn’t actually met her. The idea of Ericka’s life was exactly what I wanted someday.

Eventually my mom and my stepfather divorced and I never actually got to visit her. Actually, I’m pretty sure I never talked to her again. As a resilient teenager, I was too self obsessed to be very affected by the divorce or by any sort of loss that came with it, including the loss of Ericka.

Sadly, I found out today that Ericka died in the earthquake in Haiti. Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about her in years. A few days ago when we were told she was missing, I dismissed it and assumed she would be fine because in my head she was this amazing strong woman who was still a strong New York City lawyer.

It turns out that Ericka Chambers fell in love and became Ericka Norman. She married a man with two children so she became a stepmother (and I bet she was a VERY fancy stepmom)! And recently she had a baby girl who is just about two years old. I don’t know the details, but I do know that she worked at the UN and I’m pretty sure that is where her life was lost.

I am still in shock that this catastrophe ever really happened. There are thousands and thousands of stories like Ericka’s story. The sadness, grief, hurt and unbelievable loss of life is overwhelming. Tonight I remember that a long long time ago I knew a fancy woman who inspired me. I remember Ericka.

To make a donation and help those in need in Haiti, I recommend Doctors Without Borders, Feed my Starving Children and the American Red Cross. There are many organizations doing work to quickly help those in need. Remember, if every Minnesotan gave just $5 (less than a dinner out or a latte), together we would be giving more than $26 million. Do what you can. Live the fancy life.