SPECIAL ISSUES PUT SPECIAL DEMANDS on journalists working behind the scenes, and this PEOPLE EXTRA, Amazing Americans, is no exception. One of the most unusual sections is "The United States of Amazing." To find out about these extraordinary citizens, writer Tony Chiu relied on Denise Lynch, chief of reporters for Special Projects. She and her crew of reporters scoured the library and polled PEOPLE'S bureaus in search of the amazing. "We had to be very selective." says assistant managing editor Carol Wallace, who edited the issue. "There's no shortage of achievers and eccentrics out there."
Of course, all of us have different definitions of what's amazing. Asked who had the greatest impact on her life (other than the people featured in this issue), reporter Rebecca Ascher-Walsh picked family friend Linda Fairstein, chief of the New York City District Attorney's pioneering sex crimes unit. Reporter Allison Adato thinks highly of her pal, Chicago photographer Ken Rosenthal, who has taken her to places—the Miss Elkhart (Ind.) Pageant, for example—that she would never have been to on her own. And summer intern Bill Lebzelter, an Indiana University senior, chose Colion "Champ" Chaney, a former heavyweight boxer who now trains kids in Indianapolis.
Lynch selected her family's priest, the late Albert Taylor. When she was a child, he told her the only real test in life was the ability to answer the question, "Did you try?" Clearly the amazing Americans in this issue can answer that with a resounding "Yes."
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