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People Can't Stop Crying Over This Story Of How Mister Rogers Helped Someone Through A Dark Time

"It's good to see you again, neighbor."

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Following news that 22 people were killed Monday in a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, many people shared a pertinent quote by Fred Rogers: "Look for the helpers."

A lot of people are sharing this quote after the heartbreak in Manchester. It's also the 50th anniversary of Mr. Ro… https://t.co/Fd2yV8u93m

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers,'" the children's television show host famously once said in an interview. "'You will always find people who are helping.'"

The quote, often shared following times of tragedy, was posted by Entertainment Weekly writer Anthony Breznican.

(Breznican originally wrote on Twitter that he was posting on the 50th anniversary of the show's debut, as had been stated in a viral tweet on Monday. This turned out to be inaccurate — the 50th anniversary will actually be on Feb. 19 of next year.)

On Twitter, Breznican shared a personal story of how Mister Rogers himself was one of those "helpers" when he needed it most.

Fred Rogers was from Pittsburgh, my hometown, and my generation grew up loving this man, who taught us to be kind above all. 2/

Fred Rogers was the real thing. That gentle soul? It was no act. 3/

Growing up in Pittsburgh, where Rogers was from and where the show was based, Breznican loved watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, he told BuzzFeed News.

As I got older, I lost touch with the show, which kept running through 2001. But in college, one day, I rediscovered it... 4/

Then, as he got older, he stopped watching it.

However, in 1997, during a tough time in his junior year at the University of Pittsburgh, he unintentionally rediscovered it.

I was having a hard time. The future seemed dark. I was struggling, lonely, dealing with a lot of broken pieces and not adjusting well. 5/

I went to Pitt and devoted everything I had to the school paper, hoping that would propel me into some kind of worthwhile future. 6/

One morning, he heard the show playing in his dorm's common room. He stopped to watch a minute or two of it and wound up watching the whole episode.

It was easy to feel hopeless. One span was especially bad. Walking out of the dorm, I heard familiar music: 🎶Won't you be my neighbor... 7/

The TV was playing in an empty common room. Mr. Rogers as there, asking me what I do with the mad I feel. (I had lots to spare. still do) 8/

It feels silly to say - it felt silly then - but I stood mesmerized. His show felt like a cool hand on a hot head. I left feeling better. 9/

"I remember not even sitting down. I remember thinking, Oh, I’ll watch a few minutes of this, it's kind of nice," he said. "And then I just stood there the whole time until it was over."

"I remember thinking, I had all this anger and uncertainty, and this is a really good show even if you’re not a kid," he said. "There’s some powerful stuff going on here."

About a week later, Breznican got quite a surprise when he stepped into an elevator to discover Mister Rogers standing there.

Days later, I get in the elevator at the paper to ride down to the lobby. The doors open. Mr. Rogers is standing there. For real. 10/

Breznican noted that it wasn't the craziest coincidence — Rogers filmed his show in the same city and occasionally came to campus. Still, he'd never met him before, and the timing was uncanny.

"I thought, I’m not going to hassle this guy," said Breznican. "But I had to tell him thank you."

I can't believe it. I get in and he nods at me. I do back. I think he could sense a geek-out coming. But I kept it together. 11/

The doors open, he lets me go out first. I go, but turn around. "Mr. Rogers... I don't mean to bother you. But I wanted to say thanks." 13/

He smiles, but this has to happen to him every 10 feet. "Did you grow up as one of my neighbors?" I felt like crying. Yeah. I was. 14/

And to Breznican's surprise, Mister Rogers hugged him. "It's good to see you again, neighbor," he said.

Opens his arms, lifting his satchel for a hug. "It's good to see you again neighbor." I got to hug Mr. Rogers, y'all! 15/

I pull it together. We're walking out and I mention liking Johnny Costa (he was the piano player on the show.) We made more small talk. 16/

It was then that Breznican told Rogers the story of rediscovering the show when he needed it most.

As he went out the door, I said (in a kind of rambling gush) that I'd stumbled on the show again recently, when I really needed it. 17/

And rather than simply thank him, Rogers invited him to come talk to him about it.

So I just said, "Thanks for that." Mr. Rogers nodded. He paused. He undid his scarf. He motioned to the window, & sat down on the ledge. 18/

This is what set Mr. Rogers apart. No one else would've done this. He goes, "Do you want to tell me what was upsetting you?" 19/

"What I did not expect was for him to put aside wherever he was going, whatever he was doing, and talk to me," he said. "But I think that’s the kind of guy he was."

"I would be surprised if this didn’t happen to a lot of people. I’d bet you money that when he has to go out for an appointment he builds in time to stop and talk to people," he said.

Breznican sat on a window ledge with Rogers and opened up to him about feeling uncertain, alone, and grieving his grandfather, who'd died a few months prior.

So I sat. I told him my grandfather had just died. He was one of the few good things I had. I felt adrift. Brokenhearted. 20/

"I come from a pretty dysfunctional family, so when my Pap died, I was just sent back to school even though I didn’t want to go. I felt so alone there," he said.

"It’s the worst feeling, to grieve with no one around that you’re close to," he said. "So it was the first time anyone had said, ‘What’s bothering you?’"

Rogers told him about his own grandfather, and how he still missed him so many years later.

I like to think I didn't go on and on, but pretty soon he was telling me about his grandfather & a boat the old man bought him as a kid. 21/

Mr. Rogers asked how long ago Pap had died. It was a couple months. His grandfather was obviously gone decades. 22/

"You'll never stop missing the people you love," Rogers said, but you'll always carry with you what they taught you and how they shaped you as a person.

He still wished the old man was here. Wished he still had the boat. You'll never stop missing the people you love, Mr. Rogers said. 23/

The grandfather gave Mr. Rogers the row boat as reward for something. I forget what. Grades, or graduation. Something important. 24/

He didn't have either now, but he had that work ethic, that knowledge that the old man encouraged with his gift. 25/

"Those things never go away," Rogers told him.

"Those things never go away," Mr. Rogers said. I'm sure my eyes looked like stewed tomatoes. 26/

After 10 or 15 minutes, they parted ways. Breznican thanked Rogers for listening to him.

Finally, I said thank you. And apologized if I made him late for an appointment. "Sometimes you're right where you need to be," he said. 27/

Mr. Rogers was there for me then. So here's this story, on the 50th anniversary of his show, for anyone who needs him now. 28/

"Sometimes you're right where you need to be," Rogers told Breznican.

Breznican never saw Mister Rogers again, but 20 years later, their conversation stays with him.

I never saw him again. But that "helper" quote? That's authentic. That's who he was. For real. 29/

So when Rogers died in 2003, it deeply touched him. "I wasn't crying over the death of a celebrity," said Breznican.

When Mr. Rogers died in 2003, I sat at my computer with tears in my eyes. But I wasn't crying over the death of a celebrity. 30/

"I was mourning the loss of a neighbor."

I was mourning the loss of a neighbor. 31/end

Breznican's story has been shared widely online and is being met with very few dry eyes.

This whole thread warms even my cynical soul. To have this effect on one person, let alone millions... https://t.co/s0tzeQBLJg

I'm not crying. You're crying. https://t.co/gpj0S9sxBY

This is worth all the attention it's getting. Lovely and heartening. https://t.co/h4qyx00w0o

@Breznican Not sure a twitter post ever elicited my tears. Thank you.

"They often say you don’t want to meet your heroes because they’ll disappoint you, they’re just people," said Breznican. "But Mister Rogers? That was who he was in real life. He was that gentle, kind soul, and I experienced it."

"I guess people just needed to hear a story like that," he said.

Julia Reinstein is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Julia Reinstein at julia.reinstein@buzzfeed.com.

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