by HIKE for Mental Health co-founder, Tom Kennedy
This week we present part two of our interview with Susan Letcher, one of the Barefoot Sisters who famously yo-yo-ed the AT just over 10 years ago. Click here for part one of the interview.
She has been an inspiration to many, including the co-founders of HIKE for Mental Health. Here is the second part of our interview with her.
Tom: At HIKE for Mental Health we are about raising money and awareness for research into mental illness and also preserving and educating people about wilderness trails. I want to take you back to the darkest day you had on the trail, 9/11. That was a very difficult time for all of us, and I know you slipped into a very dark place.Can you talk about that a bit? I believe it was a phone call with your mom that helped bring you out of it.
Susan: The events of 9/11 are burned into the memory of everyone who survived that day. For hikers—and for me especially—it was an abrupt awakening from the idyll that we had been living. For more than a year, I’d been in a world where people were kind to each other, where strangers would offer me food and transportation and encouragement for no reason other than the goodness of their hearts.
I was in a moment of life where I had the most belief in human kindness and the most hope for a bright future that I had ever felt. And then to be reminded of the other side of human nature, of the other things we’re capable of… I could not reconcile those two worlds, and after I watched the footage of the planes hitting the towers and really realized what had happened, I was catapulted into a very dark place indeed.
It was one of the hardest things to revisit while we were writing the books, and it is still hard for me to face.
There were two things that brought me back out of the darkness after 9/11. The first was a conversation with my mother, on the phone at the Cabin in Andover. She reminded me that love is stronger than hate, that the parts of human nature that build trails and hike them and make up dumb songs about privies are stronger than the parts of us that fly planes into buildings. We have to believe this if we’re going to survive.
The second thing that brought me back was music. I remember the hikers at the Cabin singing the Indigo Girls song “Secure yourself to heaven.” I’d never really thought about the words before, but that night they seemed to be speaking directly to all of us.
Thank you, Susan, for talking with us. In next week’s conclusion to the interview with Susan Letcher, we hear why she is supporting the efforts of HIKE for Mental Health.