Reading out a letter he received along with the mask, the governor called the farmer's gesture "humanity at its best."
The state of New York found support from many unexpected corners of the country in its fight against the pandemic. Despite having gone through hell these past few weeks, the city's spirit remains undefeated thanks to the likes of Dennis Ruhnke, a retired Kansas farmer, who extended a humble but meaningful gesture of solidarity. Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared the heartwarming incident with reporters during his Friday coronavirus press briefing, explaining how Ruhnke had sent him a spare N95 mask to help with the shortage of PPE. Reading out the letter he received with the mask, the governor called Ruhnke's gesture "humanity at its best."
"Dear Mr. Cuomo, I seriously doubt that you will ever read this letter as I know you are busy beyond belief with the disaster that has befallen our country. We are a nation in crisis. Of that there is no doubt," the governor read out loud. "I'm a retired farmer hunkered down in northeast Kansas with my wife, who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes. We are in our 70s now and frankly, I am afraid for her."
In his letter, Ruhnke went on to inform the governor that the couple had five masks and only needed four and that he was, therefore, enclosing the spare N95 mask—which has never been used—to give to a nurse or doctor in New York. According to WNBC, speaking of Ruhnke's humble gesture during the press conference, Gov. Cuomo said, "You want to talk about a snapshot of humanity. You have five masks, what do you do. You keep all five? Do you hide the five masks and keep them for yourselves and others? No, you send one mask to New York to help a nurse or doctor. How selfless is that? How giving is that? It's that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful."
"It's that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful."— ABC News (@ABC) April 24, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reads a letter from a farmer in Kansas who sent him an extra N95 mask he didn't need for a doctor or nurse who did. https://t.co/4YuZnAoYGL pic.twitter.com/1I85OGF17H
"And it's that generosity of spirit [which]—for me—makes up for all the ugliness that you see," said the governor. "Take one mask, I'll keep four. God bless America." The 62-year-old also shared an image of Ruhnke's letter on social media, writing: I received this letter from a farmer in northeast Kansas. His wife is ill, and he is aging. He sent me one of five N95 masks he has from farming to pass on to a doctor or nurse in New York. This is humanity at its best. I share his letter as inspiration.
When contacted by reporters after Gov. Cuomo's press briefing, Ruhnke thought to send something to the northeast about a month ago. "It didn’t take much time, didn’t take much money of course. I just thought I’d put them in the box, and that was the end of that," he said. "I don’t really remember many other things I said. Thought he was doing a good job, I commended him on that."
Ruhnke, who spent over four decades of his life farming corn and soybeans in Troy, Kansas, explained that he had the masks to battle occasional dust and mold problems. Although he has no connection to New York, the retired farmer believes that "everyone's just gotta do their part, even as small as mine was," and said he feels good about what he did. "Makes me feel proud, but at the same token it’s certainly not needed," he said. "I just knew that it needed to be done. I thought, well here’s a commodity that I have that they need, it’s just a simple act."
Here's part of my conversation with Sharon from Kansas. Sharon has one lung and diabetes. Her husband, Dennis, is a retired farmer who wrote @NYGovCuomo this letter and sent him an N-95 mask. Sharon says she hopes it inspires others to help out. @NBCNewYork @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/kJWCad6d6p— Adam Harding (@HardingReports) April 24, 2020