Come on Board

I received the email below from James Wu exactly a year ago and asked him if I could share it on the website sometime in 2012.  James and Jessica met through Acumen Fund and as you will see, he is one of many who were touched by Jessica.


Hi Danielle,

I’ve been trading wonderful and unbelievably thoughtful, heartfelt emails filled with love and warmth and hope and a sense of community with many of my friends and co-workers today who all knew Jessica.

As I thought of the many gifts Jessica gave us, I remembered a quote a colleague once shared with me from Suketu Mehta’s book “Maximum City.”


“If you are late for work in the morning in Bombay, and you reach the station just as the train is leaving the platform, you can run up to the packed compartments and find many hands stretching out to grab you on board, unfolding outwards from the train like petals. As you run alongside the train, you will be picked up and some tiny space will be made for your feet on the edge of the open doorway. The rest is up to you. You will probably have to hang on to the door frame with your fingertips, being careful not to lean out too far lest you get decapitated by a pole placed too close to the tracks.

But consider what has happened. Your fellow passengers, already packed tighter than cattle are legally allowed to be, their shirts already drenched in sweat in the badly ventilated compartment, having stood like this for hours, retain an empathy for you, know that your boss might yell at you or cut your pay if you miss this train, and will make space where none exists to take one more person with them.

And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable, or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning, or whether you live in Malabar Hill or New York or Jogeshwari; whether you’re from Bombay or New York.

All they know is that you’re trying to get to the city of gold, and that’s enough. Come on board, they say. We’ll adjust.”


In many ways, I feel like this sentiment and this spirit was embodied by Jessica. No matter what was going on, no matter how busy she was, no matter how stressed, no matter how tough the situation, no matter the mood or disposition of those people she came in contact with – even perfect strangers – she was always there, with open arms, an outstretched hand, and an amazingly radiant smile to lift your spirits, make you feel welcome, and make you feel like you mattered.

We miss her dearly. But, we are all so much stronger and so much better because of her. Sending you and your family and her closest friends my love and warmest thoughts on this day.


An Instant Friend

Name: Hayley Ramsey Location: Wichita, Kansas Relationship to Jessica: Friend I met Jessica in July 2001 in Washington, D.C., when we both attended Presidential Classroom. © I met Jessica in the summer of 2001 when we both attended … Continue reading

Little Blue Pilot Light of Humanity

Name: Rabia Ahmed Location: New York, New York Relationship to Jessica: Friend and fellow volunteer The following e-mail and letter were written last year by Jessica's friend, … Continue reading

A Role Model for Others

Name: Lillian Hsu Location: Ithaca, New York Relationship to Jessica: Acquaintance/classmate I knew of Jessica since middle school, but didn't really meet Jessica until my freshman year of high school. © It's been nearly 10 years since I … Continue reading

A Smile for Everyone

Name: Kara Amendola Location: East Hanover, New Jersey Relationship to Jessica: Former Classmate I met Jessica in middle school. © I didn't know Jessica well like many of the people posting on this site; didn't know where she went to … Continue reading

Memorial Day 2009: Boston BBQ

Name: Neil Sullivan Location: Boston, Massachusetts Relationship to Jessica: Friend I met Jess through my girlfriend, Lauren Albert, in 2009. © I met Jess through my girlfriend, Lauren Albert, who was Jess’ college roommate, during a … Continue reading

Thanksgiving Eve 2008

Name: Nicole Schwarz Location: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Relationship to Jessica: Best friend I met Jess in our 1st grade CCD class. © I have one particular memory to share but before I do, I would like to express how blessed I am that Jessica … Continue reading

Dance, Girl…

Name: Rochelle Ballard Location: New York, New York Relationship to Jessica: Friends for Life! I met Jessica at Georgetown but our friendship blossomed when we both moved to New York. Ro & Jess laughing at Rochelle's birthday party, April 2008 Ro & Jess at … Continue reading

Yellow Leather Limousine

Name: Billy Williams Location: Richmond, Virginia Relationship to Jessica: Close friend I met Jessica in one of the many, many classes we took together during middle school. I'll go with 6th grade math. © © It took me … Continue reading

Soul Sister

Name: Ashley Pitman Location: New York, New York Relationship to Jessica: Roommate; Soul-Sister I first met Jessica at Georgetown - Senior Year. © I met Jessica several times at Georgetown and after graduation. I had no idea during all our … Continue reading