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TimeSpace: Half A Tank
TimeSpace: Half A Tank

Post photographer Michael Williamson is traveling across the country covering the economic situation.

Helping One Another


Scene outside of Kokomo, Indiana, one of the areas hardest hit by the recession. Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

Because of you, a young couple can now buy the wedding ring they desired. A family of five who feared every day that their lights would be turned off no longer needs to be frightened. And an out-of-work engineer who struggled with moving his family into a shelter now has housing options.

All summer long, Michael and I saw people helping one another survive across the country. Still, the outpouring here on Half a Tank surprised both of us. Several of you didn’t just comment about the stories you read, you acted.

Right now, five envelopes sit on my desk, each with a check addressed to either Justin Hamby or Holly Rogers, the couple who got married without the $186 ring they wanted. The lowest amount on any of the checks is $20; the highest, $125.

Another time, a reader paid off a Colorado family’s electric bill--all $722.92 of it. She’d never met them, only read the few sentences about their circumstances here. Robert Bengston, a U.S. Postal Service worker, and his wife had resorted to food banks to feed their three children, ages 2, 11 and 16. They hadn't paid their utilities in five months. When I called Bengston to tell him about the reader’s offer, he couldn’t believe her generosity. He just repeated the word “amazing” several times.

More recently, after our story about the Vazquez family ran here and on the front page of the newspaper last week, more than a dozen emails came in containing job leads for Ron Vazquez to pursue or offering space in readers' homes for the family.

One person wrote: “I have a finished basement with full bath that could be master bedroom and two extra bedrooms for the kids. They could stay with me til they are back on their feet--no rent necessary.”

Another woman who’d lost her own job and was struggling to keep the house where she, her husband and their three children live, wrote: “We do not know if we will be able to keep our home over the long haul and are working on that. But we do have it now, and it is big. Our reaction to your story was to wonder if it would work out for your family to live with us in our home, for a while, until you get your feet on the ground.”

This week, Michael and I will be filing our final posts. One will be an update about a man we met just days into our journey and whose story, in many ways, is a metaphor for the recession. The other will be a thank you to all of you who have traveled with us day after day, town after town for the last four months. You didn't have to send a check or open your home to strangers to support those who shared their stories. Many of the people we met said they just wanted to be heard.

By Theresa Vargas  |  October 13, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
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Next: Out Of The Debris, A Survival Story


Thank you both for the ride! It has been an interesting look into the lives of others and I will miss your articles!
I hope you do something similar soon.
Take care!

Posted by: keb09 | October 14, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

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