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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: On Sept. 10, 2001, my husband and I flew to Las Vegas for a three-day mini-vacation. Then 9/11 happened. Along with millions of other American citizens, any plans we had were changed.

Our three-day holiday extended into five days of utter confusion. Guards were stationed everywhere in the casino of our hotel. It was necessary to make many trips to our room to assure family members by phone that we were all right. Each time we used the elevator to go to our room, we had to show proof that we were guests of the hotel before being allowed to proceed.

We also had to rebook our flight, as our original departure had been canceled. Finally, on Sept. 15, we were able to schedule a flight home. As we left our room for the last time, I looked down and saw two shiny 2001 pennies lying in the doorway. Somehow, finding those pennies made me less apprehensive about flying. They are now tucked away along with the story of where we were on that fateful day.

When we got to the airport, we saw weary travelers standing patiently in line for blocks. I would like to offer special thanks to the airport employees who worked diligently to get people to their departure gates.

My husband must use a cane for any extended walking or standing, and a nurse in our line alerted airport personnel that he needed a wheelchair. One was provided as soon as possible. He was then directed to wait inside the terminal while I was told to go to the end of the long line and meet him when I got to the doorway. A wonderful young man close to the front offered to trade places in line so I could have his place. Abby, he had been waiting there for hours.

Those are just two incidents of kindness and generosity we experienced that day. Whoever and wherever you are, thank you again. -- MR. AND MRS. GEORGE CULLINS, GRATEFUL OHIOANS

DEAR MR. AND MRS. CULLINS: Thank you for sharing your experience. It shows that sometimes tragedy has a way of bringing out the best in people.

DEAR ABBY: I debated, but I finally decided the woman who wrote about wanting a "sparkler" on her 25th wedding anniversary needs to know my story.

My friend, hero and love proposed to me by quoting Shakespeare in a valentine. He was finishing his master's degree and there was no money for an engagement ring. Instead, he gave me his fraternity pin, and we married with matching gold bands in 1953. Each year, on Valentine's Day, we would mention something about renewing our marriage contract for another year. It was our ongoing joke.

On our 25th anniversary, he took me to dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. The conversation that evening covered many topics -- our pride in the accomplishments of our four children, their upcoming marriages, etc. He then asked me if I would be engaged to him for the next 25 years -- and presented me with the engagement ring he couldn't afford 25 years earlier. We planned to renew our vows on our 50th anniversary, but God called him after only 47 years together.

Abby, it certainly isn't the biggest "sparkler" in the world -- but it's the most precious possession I own. -- KAY BELL, WESTMINSTER, COLO.

DEAR KAY: I'm not surprised. It symbolizes the wealth of love and accomplishment you and your beloved husband shared together.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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