Wednesday, May 14, 1997
Reassuring words for children
Calif. quake survivors send letters of hope to Falmouth

The Cincinnati Enquirer

FALMOUTH - Lacy Wright didn't think hugs could travel by mail, but the fifth-grader felt the strength that comes from a warm squeeze on Tuesday.

It came from Brandy Neal, a California student who wrote a letter. "She felt sorry for me because we have experienced the flood," Lacy said after reading the letter.

Brandy wrote that she didn't know about floods but remembered the 1993 earthquake. "She said she slept through part of it and was scared, but she got over it," Lacy said. "She wants me to write back."

Lacy said she will.

Hundreds of students at Southern Elementary School received letters written by peers in California, sharing coping tips, asking about their families and telling them things will get better.

The letters were started by Girl Scouts who had seen pictures of flooded Falmouth in March television reports. A troop leader encouraged her girls to write letters. Those girls then got their classmates to do the same.

More than 500 letters were sent to the Kentucky Department of Emergency Services, from students in three schools and three Girl Scout troops from Los Angeles and Culver City, Calif. Robert Osborne, a state coordinating officer for the flood, and donations coordinator Dave Boyer delivered the mail to students on Tuesday.

"They've been down this road before," Mr. Osborne said of the California students. "They know the thoughts and fears. We're presenting the letters in hopes it will contribute to a speedy recovery." Sentiments in the letters made some fifth-grade students feel better. Clint Conrad said it was nice to know people were thinking of him. Jessica Steele read a letter from California fifth-grader Jaclyn.

"I feel sorry for you but I kind of know how you feel because I live in California," Jaclyn wrote. "I hope one day you have a better experience."

Jessica said it was nice to get a letter from someone who knew what it was like to live through a big disaster. "It's nice to know that people care enough to try to make you happy," she said.

School officials and Mr. Boyer said they hoped the Pendleton County students would benefit from the letters. And they'll encourage them to write back.

A postscript on a letter received by Tonya Johnson made the point of the exchange clear, "Remember, there is always someone who cares enough to write a simple letter."