This story was originally published on September 11, 2014
“Remarkably it survived when so much else did not,” said businessman Raviv Shtaingos about a red envelope he decided to pick up on September 11, 2001 as he fled from Lower Manhattan. We first encountered the story of the letter that survived 9/11 last year through this video made by Stephen Farrell for The New York Times, but we thought it would be appropriate to share again today on the fourteenth anniversary of the attacks. Read on to watch Farrell’s short film about the tenacious letter.
The letter — which was actually an invitation to a wedding rehearsal dinner — was supposed to go from Maine to California. Lawry Meister’s aunt dropped the red envelope addressed to her Los Angeles-based niece in the mail in Cape Neddick, after which it traveled to New Hampshire and then to Boston, where it was loaded onto one of the two LA-bound planes that were hijacked on the morning of September 11, 2001.
We all know the next part of the story. The planes never made it to their destinations, and the mail aboard them, including the invitation sent to Lawry Meister, ended up littered on the streets of Lower Manhattan. That probably would have been the end of the tale for the red envelope, except that a London-based businessman, Raviv Shtaingos, spotted it amid all of the chaos and picked it up. But even after making it to safety and returning to the UK, Shtaingos did not forget about the letter. Without even knowing what the message inside might say, he decided to overnight it to its intended recipients in Los Angeles.
Lawry Meister was wary of the packet at first but when her curiosity got the better of her, she and her husband Charlie were amazed at the contents — a tattered and torn envelope addressed from her aunt but that somehow came from Britain. They were even more astonished after they read the short note Shtaingos had tucked inside explaining what the letter had been through.
“What’s always struck me is that someone who was leaving this, you know, this crisis, fleeing for their lives, would take the time to pick it up… and then to return it,” Charlie Meister told The New York Times.
“I think it’s actually a symbol of hope,” said Lawry Meister. “I think that, you know, it wasn’t an ordinary letter or something. It was something to celebrate and the fact that that made it through…”
The Meisters donated the letter to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, where it serves to share a tale of human resilience to all that visit.