Operation Find Don
August 13, 2009 8:42 PM   Subscribe

Operation Find Don Sarah Bunting, founder of Television Without Pity and Tomato Nation (previously mentioned) renews her quest to find Don, her companion and guardian angel through Lower Manhattan on 9/11.

Her essay, "For Thou Art With Us," describes their ordeal.

Why should you care? "Because it's a mystery, a puzzle, a story that needs an end. Because Don is everything good and friendly about the world. Because I owe him my thanks, and possibly a cold beer. Because it's his birthday."
posted by Sweetie Darling (29 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
That story, about her escaping from lower Manhattan that day, was one of the best written and most stirring blog posts I saw in the days following the attack.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:44 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

This story has haunted me all this time.

We've talked about it here before so this may get flagged as a double:
posted by padraigin at 8:53 PM on August 13, 2009

Shoot, padraigin, I guess I could have gotten away with missing one previous link, but four? I'm going back to the green.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:56 PM on August 13, 2009

Aw, I only knew 'cause one of them was mine. Like I said, the story haunts me to this day.
posted by padraigin at 8:57 PM on August 13, 2009

Even if this doesn't make the final cut, in my mind, it was well worth it for this: ("So, you waited for eight years for me to show up." "Uh huh." "And so did some of your readers." "Ehhhh-yep." "That's…quite odd." "Yessir it is. Beer?" "Um.")

While I was hoping Sars had found Don by now, I'm glad to hear that she hasn't given up.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:21 PM on August 13, 2009

I find it slightly odd that she hasn't succeeded by now. Perhaps it's an unsettling reminder of how separate black and white lives remain in an America that has elected a black President.

Google News doesn't show "Operation Find Don" or any other reference beyond a brief mention in an October '01 Boston Herald column. Isn't there some way to bridge the six degrees by getting this published in, say, the Jersey City media (Hudson Reporter, Jersey Journal, River View Observer)? Or any NY papers? What about TV? Has she ever worked with a sketch artist? What about a hypnotist (is she sure his name is really Don?).

OK, you know I think this is not necessarily very likely to work, but in the interest of an experiment of sorts, here is a Facebook group: Operation Find Don.
posted by dhartung at 9:49 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

dhartung said: Perhaps it's an unsettling reminder of how separate black and white lives remain in an America that has elected a black President.

I don't think that's what it is.
posted by ericost at 9:56 PM on August 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

OK, fine, ericost, but what do you think that it is? There are of course several other possibilities, although few benign ones: a) Sarah misheard or misremembered his name; b) he used a false name; c) he used his real name but doesn't want to be found; d) any of the above but he is now unfindable (dead, prison, lost at sea). I admit to not knowing the answer.
posted by dhartung at 10:06 PM on August 13, 2009

I've loved her writing for years, and I'm really hoping she finds Don. (And that Don is well, and wants to be found.)

Facebook group joined.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:06 PM on August 13, 2009

It's quite possible that Don doesn't remember much about this. People can keep it together on the surface during a traumatic ordeal, but inwardly are somewhere far away. Don might very well have some nice big blocks around his memories of that day.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:15 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

but what do you think that it is?

I really have no idea. Probably the guy is completely unaware of her efforts to find him. Or is aware and not interested in attention. In my reading, he really didn't do anything notable. He was a person that the author made a human connection with on a horrible day, a day that made people need and value human contact. It's very moving, her story and subsequent desire to reconnect with Don, but maybe he's not interested.

Whatever has kept her from finding him though, I'd bet it would be the same if they were both the same race.
posted by ericost at 10:19 PM on August 13, 2009

It's quite probable Don doesn't even know she's looking for him. I've been reading this site since before 9/11, and this is the first I've read this story.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:23 PM on August 13, 2009

OK, well, either way we won't ever known unless he's actually found. I'm sorry that my speculation put what you thought an inappropriate cast on the situation.
posted by dhartung at 10:28 PM on August 13, 2009

There are 12 million people in New York City and even more in the greater metro area. I've been actively avoiding thinking or reading or talking or seeing anything about 9-11 since it happened.

It would be surprising if she found him.
posted by danny the boy at 10:52 PM on August 13, 2009

I like this 9/11 essay too; I think it's my favorite out of all of them.
posted by nasreddin at 11:18 PM on August 13, 2009

I remember reading this at the time and being very moved - hoping she would find Don. Now that so much time has passed, I just don't think it will ever happen. She's popular online, but her presence would need to be much, much greater to attract the attention of Don or anyone who knows him.
posted by pinky at 12:17 AM on August 14, 2009

That was a really amazing story and a great piece of writing. I wonder if Don is out there, and would want to be found, but without all the attention and thousands of people waiting to hear all about it.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:23 AM on August 14, 2009

It's been almost eight years and this is the first I've heard of it. I'm guessing the most likely thing is that Don hasn't either.
posted by grouse at 8:05 AM on August 14, 2009

Reading her original essay what resonates is the animal instinct to "get home." And then the need to get Home, the one Frost says is when you have to go there, they have to take you.

On a completely fluffy note, I'm a regular TWoP reader since its MBTV days (a name I preferred). But I've never known much about its creators. Thanks for reminding me I've always meant to search out more info about them.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:24 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

At this point (and this is coming from someone who gags at the A-word), I'm thinking dude might very well be an angel (a theory I recall Sars floating last year, though I don't know if she's got the archives of that up). Because man, what with the Internet and six degrees of separation and everyone posting this every year (I just googled "Operation Find Don" and this has gotten around), and he still hasn't turned up? You gotta wonder. Unless the guy's somehow dead and has no friends or family that have ever gone online, it seems like a stretch to me that there's no sign of him whatsoever.

Still rooting for him to turn up though, of course. I'd like the angel theory to be thwarted this year. Maybe Oprah will pull it off?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:40 AM on August 14, 2009

Um, jenfullmoon, it's the extraordinary claims that require extraordinary evidence. Angel: extraordinary. Guy who hasn't heard of this effort due to not-much offline media attention? Ordinary.

Even bringing up a mythological solution inverts the burden of proof.
posted by abulafa at 9:04 AM on August 14, 2009

Tragically, Don passed away in 2006.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:42 AM on August 14, 2009

I'm a fan of TWOP and on the internet a lot and I hadn't known about this - it doesn't surprise me that Don hasn't turned up yet. Maybe he's not even someone who uses the internet a lot.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:23 AM on August 14, 2009

Angel: extraordinary. Guy who hasn't heard of this effort due to not-much offline media attention? Ordinary.

Yes, this. This is the first I've heard of it--I even missed the four previous links here!
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:11 PM on August 14, 2009

We've got 70 members in the group after 24 hours or so, and I've begun contacting media outlets (Sarah has contacted the Oprah Winfrey Show).
posted by dhartung at 11:09 PM on August 14, 2009

I actually know someone who works for a New Jersey paper, and her father is an editor there (Mefi's own Saharahrose ). I've asked her if we can make a bid for this to be a human-interest story; it's possible that the reason Don hasn't been found is because he's not a 'net guy, and simply doesn't know about this and we have to go print.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on August 15, 2009

Or thinks that, while it'd be nice to talk to Sarah again, does not want to be an instant celebrity and become a part of a big sensationalist story with his name and identity passed around the internet. This was a traumatic event and some people just want to be left alone to deal with it. I'm sorry, but this worldwide search for this man really rubs me the wrong way. I hope that, if he doesn't want to be found, he won't be. But I don't trust all of us to leave him alone if that's the case.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:53 PM on August 15, 2009

This just in: apparently a BBC program heard about Operation Find Don here on Mefi (!) and has contacted Sarah for an interview.

Go team Mefi!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on August 28, 2009

Sarah was on WNYC's "The Takeaway" today.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2009

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