The cover story in the Sept. 11 issue of the Magazine, “First Love,” by Ellen McCarthy, garnered a lot of reaction from readers, much of it along the lines of this letter to the editor from David Roberts of Maryland Line:

I read virtually every page in the September 11 issue of The Washington Post Magazine, occasionally with tears in my eyes. How can I describe it in one word? I would choose “exquisite.” (And to find the persons in the “First Love” article are of my generation and also live in my area — northern Baltimore County — was an additional thrill.)

On the Web, the overwhelming number of the 150 commenters were moved by the story.

llewopkcin: Thank you so much fo r this wonderful story! I’m about to pass it on to everybody!

kt76: How soon before someone at work asks me why I’ve been crying?

cfrance: Damn allergies . . . my eyes are watering. Beautiful story of love.

beverlycrow: One of the best love stories that i have read thanks for sharing. . . . So many times people dont pay attention to the news or newpaper articles because it’s mainly all bad, but this is a ray of sunshine!

LuvDCArea: I’m glad such a beautiful love story arise, even through an awful, awful war. I hope their own children, by their previous marriages are happy for them or eventually will become, at least friendly, with their parent’s new spouse. May everybody involved receive bountiful blessings.

kelly19: This was a beautiful, well written story. Thank you to Debbie, Kevin and Val for sharing so openly. I am also happy to see St. Ann’s of Hyattsville mentioned; they continue to do important work for young pregnant women to this day.

A few posters had a different reaction.

Llirpallih: A lovely story about dysfunction.

flcat [on the issue of underage sex]:

This story gives one pause in that it overlooks the harm done to a young girl of 14 to 15 years by its “feel good “ approach of lost love. Surely, the fact of the subsequent four marriages implies emotional injury.

gm123: I’d have liked to read more about the children of each of them. “And now they had Val, whom they whisked away for long weekends every chance they got.” - How did the children handle it? The article mentioned that Val was a wedding attendant. Surely they didn’t abandon their other children.

I get that this is a “romantic” story, but it isn’t a story about 3 people, it’s about the two adults, all their spouses, and all their children, and all of that is conveniently brushed under the rug.

Meanwhile, in homage to the date of that issue, Gene Weingarten chose to republish an old column, in verse, about the uplift to be found in even bad poems about Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The column prompting this waggish comment:


What makes the tragedy all the more bitter,

Is that ten tears later, despite all that’s been done,

Gene is still birthing bad verse by the litter,

Irrefutable proof that the terrorists won!

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