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April 17, 2014

Chance encounters can be life altering

Life is fragile. It can break into fragments at any given moment, whether we’re prepared for it or not.

One wrong turn can lead you to disaster. One snap of a finger and the whole world around you takes a different turn.

Had you stepped the other way, perhaps you would have avoided a falling object. Taking a different street might have averted a collision. A moment’s time might have led you to a winning lottery ticket.

A friend was standing in line at a convenience store, prepared to buy a scratch ticket, when he stepped aside to pick up a soda. The customer who took his place was handed a $50,000 winner.

None of you would know Levon Saryan unless you were active in Armenian circles and happened to live in Racine. We grew up together in youth organizations, attended conventions and church conclaves, have written to one another and are fellow journalists.

The respect we have for one another is mutual. It extends five decades and has only gotten stronger over time in our advanced stages. We even met once at de Gaulle Airport in Paris and took the remaining flight to Armenia, where he was honored for his work by the National Academy for Arts & Sciences. I was not there to see that moment because I happened to walk right past that building during his tribute, much to my eternal regret.

What happened to him could have happened to any one of us in his shoes. He was returning home from California, where he was visiting his ailing mom. Saryan was going though security at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), minding his own business, when the unthinkable occurred.

He came face-to-face with a terrorist pointing an assault rifle in his face.

“You TSA?” barked the gunman.

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