I was living in Brussels watching television and folding laundry on the couch when reports of the 9 /11 attacks began. The terrifying images seemed surreal, even more so being thousands of miles away.

We had lived in our home in a French-speaking neighborhood of Brussels for more than a year but had not met a single neighbor. We had been told it was typical for neighbors to keep to themselves.

My husband was traveling for work and stuck in Geneva because all airports were shut down. Alone with my 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, I was sad and shaky, and I never felt further from home.

Within a few hours of reports of the attacks, there was a knock at the door. Standing there was a young woman and her son, with a bouquet of flowers offering condolences in French, “I am sorry for your country.” She was the first of several neighbors who came late into the night and the next day bearing bread, pâtisserie, fresh eggs. What stays with me was the sadness on their faces, their utter sorrow and willingness to share their grief with a complete stranger. There had been a death in the family and our Belgian neighbors were honoring that.

I wondered how they knew we were American. Perhaps they knew our landlord, or maybe the basketball hoop in our driveway gave us away. And it never went further than that. Going forward we would smile and wave in passing, and they went back to keeping to themselves. We respected that. Their outreach on Sept. 11 was more than enough. If I was there today, I would do the same. Stand at their door with flowers and food, honoring the death in their family.

Lynn Fleming, Minneapolis


Role in early abortions is not ‘just wrong,’ it’s up for debate

The letter writer who opines that emergency contraception does not result in plausibly causing early abortions is “just wrong.” She is arguing from the false premise that pregnancy begins at implantation of the fertilized egg. In a survey of OB/GYNs published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in November 2011, one-fourth of respondents say pregnancy begins at implantation, but one-fourth are not sure, and more than half believe pregnancy begins at conception. Since the letter writer admits that one of the goals of emergency contraception is to prevent implantation, it is possible this results in an early abortion. Once the egg is fertilized, gender has been determined and all genetic material is there. Cell division has already begun and continues during the journey from the fallopian tube to the uterus. Whether for or against abortion, one should make an informed decision about such a major life event.

Robert J. Klecker, Eagan


It sure does take a village to make up one man’s mind

They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. I can’t wait to see what University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s group comes up with for our next athletic director. (“U search for AD will be a group effort,” March 24.) After 7½ months, Kaler has announced that he’s hired a New Jersey search consultancy ($150,000 plus expenses) and formed a 16-person advisory committee including a professor of horticulture and a kitchen counter executive. However, assures the president: “It’s ultimately my decision.” Umm, and the Board of Regents. I wonder where they will be holding the interviews — Ridder Arena?

Tom Moudry, Minneapolis


Protests send a message, and it’s not a constructive one

To the parents in the photographs accompanying the March 23 article about the protests at a St. Paul school board meeting (“St. Paul teacher contract approved”). What do you see? Clenched fists. A woman’s face contorted in confrontation. I hope these photos make you cringe. They did me. These are not images to make your children proud or good role models to instigate positive change.

Ursula Krawczyk, Roseville

• • •

A March 24 counterpoint (“Untangling the roots of violence in schools”) tries to argue that Katherine Kersten’s solution to increased school violence (“Mollycoddle no more,” March 20) is too simplistic. But by exposing the convoluted thinking of the school board, it actually reinforces Kersten’s point.

According to the authors, bad student behavior is the natural outcome of “centuries of inequities,” and the district’s preferred response is to offer “innovative and restorative approaches to addressing the roots of violent behavior.” Kersten’s point was simple: Failure to enforce behavior standards results in increased bad behavior. Every responsible parent lives that reality every day. In fact, if the school board’s decision to lower behavior standards were a controlled psychology study, it would have proved a direct causal relationship between lowered standards and increased misbehavior. But of course that wasn’t the intent, so it couldn’t be true, right?

The “problem” was a disproportionate number of suspensions. The “solution” was to lower behavior standards. Suspensions went down and violence went up. The real problem on display is district leadership, and this counterpoint shows us the tortured overthinking that has justified the district’s failed policies.

Christopher Oace, Minneapolis


Students are admirably involved on climate concerns, health

Kudos to the St. Louis Park High School students who are challenging the St. Louis Park City Council to take better care of their future by enacting a climate action plan (“St. Louis Park gets B- on students’ climate report card,” March 22). They are turning the “father/mother knows best” adage on its head, educating their elders on the need to move faster on taking action to reduce the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

It is appropriate that high school students are engaged in this issue because they, even more than their elders, are the ones who will suffer the long-term consequences of climate change. Climate change is projected to have negative effects on the health of Minnesotans, including asthma, allergies, mosquito- and tick-borne diseases, chronic pulmonary disease, and heart-related illnesses.

Parents’ primary concern is the health of their children. I hope the St. Louis Park High students and other students around the state continue to remind their community leaders of this need.

Dr. Mark D. Nissen, Minneapolis

The writer is a retired physician.


Light and springy, like dollar bills fluttering in the wind

I can only call the March 24 front-page Variety fashion article elitist. The total cost of clothing depicted in the large photo of the mother and two children, one of whom is shoeless, is $1,196. Yikes! I can picture the average family running out to purchase these items. I am so glad that a pair of Target bunny socks were included on the back page. That might be a dollar well spent!

Tana Havumaki, Taylors Falls, Minn.