The Value of Lost Things


Do You Ever Think of the Emotional Value of Things?

I’ve often heard that you don’t know the value of something until you lose it. I think a more accurate statement might be that we take the value of things, even people, for granted while they are around and available.

One afternoon, in between class periods I used the nearest girl’s restroom at the suburban junior high school where I teach. I freshened up then left my cosmetic pouch on the sink before I used the stall, as I always do. I heard one or two girls come in and leave. When I came out, the bag was gone.

Gone was my soft, perforated black leather over red satin pouch. What an inconvenience to replace these necessities – my compact, lipstick, lip gloss, purse-size hand sanitizer, small comb, brush, mini nail file, hair pins, safety pins, and my small Swiss army pocket knife with seven tool heads.

Then I felt the pang of a deeper loss! That little bag was associated with very emotional memories of my experience of 9/11.

I worked then at a brokerage firm whose offices are on the waterfront in Weehawken, New Jersey, directly across from midtown New York City. That fateful morning, I watched the second plane crash into Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. During an emergency meeting called to coordinate evacuation of our building, we watched in horror as the towers collapsed in a huge plume of smoke and dust that spread over downtown Manhattan.

I had offered to drop a colleague at the New Jersey Transit train station on my way home. When we got there it felt like Armageddon. People who had managed to catch trains out of New York City were circling around in panic. All trains had stopped running! When my colleague heard the news she ran back to my car and asked me to take her home to Newark, a town only six miles away. In a scene reminiscent of a zombie movie, several young women started banging on my window. “Please, please, take us home!” They were disheveled and haggard. The fear in their eyes reflected what was in my and everyone else’s heart. Is this the end? I couldn’t leave them there. These perfect strangers piled up in my car.

As I drove toward Newark, I noticed a lot of police activity on all the roadways and bridges and credited it to the fact that the country was possibly under attack. When I dropped the girls off, we exchanged business cards. They worked for Estee Lauder Cosmetics.

Imagine my panic when I tried to get home and found a closed bridge! I circled around for what felt like an eternity. All the bridges and roadways had been shut down. I was frantic, scared and felt like a citizen left outside the gates and the enemy was coming. I finally reached my husband on the phone and he reminded me that I had a friend who lived near Newark. I spent the night there, mostly glued to the continuous recap of the events on television and found out the terrorists had driven from Newark and the police investigation was centered there. In addition, some of the World Trade Center victims were being transported to nearby New Jersey hospitals.

A couple of weeks later, I opened my mail to find a thank you note and a kit of Estee Lauder products from the young women I gave a ride to on 9/11. In it was that perfect size, elegant leather cosmetic bag. I didn’t use it for a long time, wanting to keep it as a memento. I decided to start using it when my regular $4.99 pouch gave way.

I never thought about how I got the bag until it was gone – coincidentally two weeks after the 9/11 anniversary.

The same happens with other things, even people. They are part of the fabric of our everyday life, so we take them for granted. They serve their purpose or function and we never think of their emotional value until they are no longer around. Like that job you can’t stand but that provides for you or the gadget you paid so much for and mishandle. We are aware of how important this spouse, parent, child or friend is in our life, but we’ll leave them vulnerable, expose them to risk, just as I did when I left this bag in the open.

What if we valued what and who we love by protecting them a little better?

How about if we remind ourselves how much they mean to us not only in a tangible way, but also by adding that emotional quotient that is so much more?

Then maybe there would be less lost things to fuss about, less precious moments  that are wasted away and less lost relationships  to mourn.

***Previously published on


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