Stuffed bears return home from nationwide mission

June 07, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Liberty and Faith had an excellent adventure.

The two little stuffed bears left Fairview Elementary School Jan. 16 on a nationwide mission to find out how Americans were feeling about the events of Sept. 11 and whether the country was pulling together in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

The bears, decorated with stars, were put in a cardboard box with a photo of the sixth-graders who sent them off, an empty journal and a letter explaining why the bears' story.

The letter, written by Steve McNew, a K-12 school counselor, also asked that the bears be sent back to the school by mid-May.


The bears traveled across the country with truckers and eventually passed through 37 states, according to a map outlining their journey. Truckers passed them on to other truckers and people they met along their way.

Those who ended up with the bears were asked to write in the journal about how they felt about the Sept. 11 attacks, where they picked up the bears, and a few lines about their personal lives.

"Liberty and Faith are very special bears," McNew wrote in his letter. "Please let them ride with you and keep them safe. They want to go to as many states as possible and meet as many new people as they can."

McNew placed enough stamps on the box to guarantee return postage, but said he and the students had little hope that the bears would come back.

"At first I thought they would, but then there was no response," said sixth-grader Kyla Schade, 12. "No one wrote and no one called. I thought they had been bearnapped."

McNew said he and the students were amazed at the response the bears had drawn on their ambassadorial trip around the nation. The journal contained 17 handwritten entries, the class received five e-mails, a postcard, (from the bears) and a letter. Liberty and Faith were written about in newspapers in Maine and Washington State.

"The kids never got the perspective of how big this country is or how easily the bears could have been destroyed or thrown in the trash by someone along the way," McNew said.

The bears were mailed back by a couple in South Carolina, who included a pre-paid phone call so the students could call and confirm that they arrived safely.

"I had lost faith in human beings. This helps to bring it back," McNew said of the bears' journey. "There are still good people in the world who care about each other, even strangers."

"I think this is a great sentiment," e-mailed Diane Price from Ellensburg, Wash., who said she was devastated over the terrorist attacks. "My sister called me on the cell phone while I was transferring kids to school. I have cried over the event and continue to pray for the people involved and for our nation."

Jeff Carmichael, a truck driver who carried the bears to Maine, said he was in New York when the planes struck the World Trade Center towers. He watched as they collapsed.

"The events of Sept. 11 make me sad to think there are people in the world that would plot to kill masses of other human beings without a second thought," Carmichael wrote in the journal.

Nancy and Robert Diller, a trucking couple from Nashville, Tenn., picked up the bears at a truck stop in Hebron, Ohio.

"It made us realize that what was important before Sept. 11 was no longer important," they wrote.

McNew said the bears and the journal will be prominently displayed in a case in the school.

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