How One Woman Kept Hostages Alive at Trader Joe’s

Stories of resilience even in the most difficult of circumstances.

MaryLinda Moss and Lynne Westafer hug at a memorial outside the Trader Joe's in Silver Lake, where they were held hostage during a standoff in July.Allen J. Schaben/Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

“There’s always hope.” That’s what MaryLinda Moss told the gunman who had taken her and a dozen others hostage at a Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles, California. Moss then put her hand on his heart. She told him he was a good person.

The 55-year-old Moss, an artist who exudes calm from years of trauma therapy and healing work, ended up helping negotiate an end to the crisis.

She remained calm even as her husband texted her, worried.

“It’s complicated,” she texted back. She reassured him she was okay, and wrote, “I can’t text anymore. We are negotiating.”

“Her goal was to get everyone out safely without further bloodshed,” columnist Robin Abcarian, who wrote about Moss for the Los Angeles Times, told me via email.

Moss had gained the gunman’s trust by bandaging his wounded arm. She helped mediate calls with police in order to calm the gunman, who wanted to get out alive. And, calmly—without a weapon—Moss did manage to get them out alive.

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  • A moment of connection. Few people understand 17-year-old Jack Ryan Edwards, says his dad. But supermarket clerk Jordan Taylor did.

    Taylor let the autistic teen, who was fascinated with orange juice, help him stock the juice cooler one bottle at a time, even though it took longer that way. The effort was captured in a video that went viral—and led to a part-time job offer for Edwards and a crowd-sourced scholarship fund for Taylor.

    “What I’ve learned is our world doesn’t accept autistic kids. It’s impossible for those kids to enter our world,” said Edwards’ father, Sid. “We spend so much time working on that, but this man figured it out in eight seconds: He went into Jack Ryan’s world.”

    The store clerk, interviewed by the local TV station, fought back tears as he tried to explain why he helped. “I never pictured all this would happen. I was just me being me,” he said. “I just wanted to help somebody else out.”

    Reader Rick Taylor suggested this story—thanks, Rick! (Washington Post)

  • A full ride at just the right time. Seth Owen thought he’d lost his college dreams. He had been accepted to Georgetown University but learned that his financial aid package had been based on his family contributing $20,000 to annual expenses. His parents, however, had driven him out of their home after finding out he was gay.

    After Georgetown initially refused to adjust his financial aid award, Owen’s teacher and friends raised $130,000 to help pay for his schooling. But last week, the university changed its offer to a full scholarship, allowing Owen to attend the university at almost no cost.

    Owen is now considering donating a portion of the money towards creating a scholarship fund for LBGTQ students who find themselves in a similar situation. (NBC)

  • Others may lose hope, but…Glady Cañas Aguilar tells migrants waiting at the border between Texas and Mexico, “If you’ve made it this far, it’s worth staying until you can ask for asylum.”

    Cañas Aguilar and volunteers bring food, water, ice, and medicine to those waiting to enter the US—some of whom are fleeing death threats from gangs or abusive spouses back home. They also talk to the migrants and provide moral support. Sometimes words, or a comforting ear or shoulder, can be the most important medicine against indifference or insults.

    “By listening and chatting, they feel as if they’re in their homes,” she says.

    Cañas Aguilar shows, as writer Noah Lanard puts it, that “compassion can be a form of resistance.” (Mother Jones)

  • Investing in public schools. The best basketball player of his generation wants to provide quality schools and higher education to kids in his hometown.

    LeBron James’s “I Promise” school opened last week in Akron, Ohio, with 240 students in third and fourth grade. The school will expand to include grades one through eight by 2022. Students receive free breakfast and lunch as well as paid tuition to the University of Akron.

    James, who missed 83 days during his fourth grade year, called the opening “one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life.” He has gotten support for his school from the Obamas, from Michael Jordan, and from Melania Trump—despite President Trump’s recent spat with the basketball star. (CNN)

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