I was just at the right place at the right time.
My wife and I were in Fèves, France visiting my relatives in August 2013. One afternoon as I was picking up my father at the town hall, I was asked to translate an e-mail that came from the U.S.
A gentleman named Art Vaughan was seeking some information about my late Grand Uncle Henri Torlotting, who happened many years ago to be Fèves' schoolmaster and town-hall secretary.
From the moment I translated this message until today, I was privileged to witness that friendship can do miracles,
despite differences of nationalities, languages and geographical locations.
At the start, Gloria Freeland, professor of journalism at KSU in Manhattan, Kansas, assigned to her students a project about the small communities of Clay County, Kansas. Three young women decided to work on a story about the extraordinary deed of seven decades ago by the people of nearby Morganville. They described how other ordinary people from Fèves, a little French village which was devastated during World War II, directly benefited from this generous event.
The story could have died again once Gloria's students received their grades, but it did not. Art Vaughan, Freeland's husband, a tenacious polymath-historian-engineer and, her perfect teammate, tirelessly conducted his own research, which brought him to my father and me.
My father, Gérard Torlotting, a curious, enthusiastic, anti-procrastinator, who had been, along with my mother and her family, a beneficiary of Morganville's generosity, asked me to re-establish contact right away.
Since I was living in Houston with my family, he summoned us to organize a trip to Morganville in December to meet Gloria, Art and the people from Morganville.
From that point, there was no way out!
The next summer, and every summer since then, Art and Gloria have traveled to Metz, France - Fèves' large nearby neighbor. My father organized a trip for 20 people to go to Morganville to say "thank you" in person to their American friends.
Numerous articles, a photographic expo, interviews and conversations with other enthusiasts have taken place since then and another group trip, eastbound this time, is already in the making.
And everything started with an email, which made the world even smaller than what it is.
January 27, 2018