by Anne Imanuel
NAPLES: A Naples man is one of only a handful in the entire world who will meet His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama face-to-face. The meeting is on Sunday and the man is preparing to ask the Tibetan leader just one question.
When tragedy strikes, Rick Ritchason lines up to help.
“We should take care of each other,” he said.
He worked for American Airlines as a flight attendant and as a relief worker. He was the guy who would be there to comfort the families of crash victims.
But 9-11 took on a new meaning for him. He was scheduled to be on Flight 11 – the plane that struck the north tower. All 11 of the crew members were his friends.
“I was supposed to be on that flight too. I could have been on that flight. Why wasn’t I? Why am I alive? Why were they on the flight? You wonder why you’re still alive, what’s your purpose?” he said.
The event inspired him to do even more. He spent weeks as a relief worker in Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
He pulled bodies from the water and gave food and money to those left behind.
“We were just doing whatever we could,” said Ritchason.
It’s that selfless compassion that now has him travelling again.
But this time, he’s going to California to receive an award from the Dalai Lama – one of Ritchason’s biggest heroes.
“His life is based on compassion – based on caring,” he said.
Ritchason will get a few short minutes of one-on-one time with the Tibetan spiritual leader and he can ask one question.
He says he hopes he can learn from the Dalai Lama and use the once in a lifetime opportunity as a lesson.
“Please give me something that I can take and carry your message on. What is that?” Ritchason said, as he described what he might ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Then, he says, he can continue his charity work a little more enlightened.