New York Times Portraits of Grief
Michael J. Armstrong had an uncanny way of looking people deep in the eyes and telling them things that stuck with them, that sometimes changed their lives.
There was the confused, rambling Grateful Dead fan he met on a train in 1993, who was hooked on drugs and on the run from his parents.
The young man wrote Mr. Armstrong a letter shortly after their meeting that Mr. Armstrong's family found in a drawer when they cleaned out his Upper East Side apartment after Sept. 11.
"After talking to you," the young man wrote, "I've worked everything out with my parents and will be returning to work for them and continuing a drug-free life. I have positive goals but I almost threw them away. I just want to thank you for helping me."
There was the man from the Upper East Side who served time in prison. When he got out, he was shunned by most people; Mr. Armstrong went out of his way to talk to him, to make him feel welcome.
"Since Sept. 11, we've realized what a great impact he's had on people's lives," said Catherine M. Nolan, whom Mr. Armstrong, 34, a vice president of sales at Cantor Fitzgerald, was to marry on Oct. 6.