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The Pelican Rapids High School band, joined many others at a band contest in Chicago. On the way home, however, the 100 youngsters and HS staff, traveling north in 2 busses, met with disaster on I -94 when one of the buses flipped over on the slippery road. One of the band youngsters died in the accident and many more were seriously injured.
Over 1,000 people from this close nit community in northern Minnesota packed the Pelican Rapids High School gymnasium Monday evening to hold hands, share tears and seek comfort amidst the pain they were feeling following the tragic bus accident. In an effort to comfort grieving classmates, over 100 Hugs Acrross America teddies will be given to the students as they return to school with the help of Police Chief Jeff Stadum and the Pelican Rapids High School guidance department.
This rural western Pennsylvania community is in mourning following a house fire that claimed 10 lives, including a mother, five of her children and three grandchildren. "We know everybody, so it's like losing one of your own," said William Hrinya, mayor of Brockway, a town of about 2,000 people 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Three generations of Petersons lived together in that home and they were a tight family. The community's small school district of just about 1,000 students has been hard-hit by the tragedy, said Amy Glasl, principal of Brockway Elementary School. Three children in the family attended her school; two of them died. The school Guidance Counselor, Barabara Fortunato, who has herself founded an organization called "H.U.G.S." ( Helping Understand Grief Stages), has requested 60 teddies from Hugs Across America to help the classes deal with their loss as they return to school.
"Will it ever be easier, will the vulnerability go away, will random madness stop"? ... these questions our students want to know. We can not give the answers, but we can give them hugs, and hope and the sure knowledge that they are not alone in their grief. 115 Hugs teddy bears will greet the 100 students who return to an Ocean Geology class in Cole Hall when classes begin after the massacre on Valentine's Day. The Counseling Center feels that the students will find comfort in their hugs.
"I thought of you last night...it took me 3 and 1/2 hours to get home during the ice storm with the Severn River Bridge closed down. I worked an extra shift Tuesday to just help out...well...I stopped dead near the Mall/Parole exit for 3 hours!!! Two cars behind me, a mom and her 2 little girls, slid on the ice. Their vehicle went under a truck. Mom was pinned in and had injuries, one little girl had an asthma attack, they both were crying desperately. Well, I called EMS 3 times and it took 45 minutes to get 2 ambulances driving in the wrong direction on the shoulder to get to us. At one point I was on the phone with EMS and telling them I felt like the lone ranger out there and needed help. Then you came to my mind and I realized I had 2 teddy bears in the car...a flash of you with Hugs Across America...I nearly hung up on EMS but not till I told them...get me help out here...all I have are 2 blankets, a first aid kit, found an inhaler for the child having an asthma attack, and, oh yes, 2 teddy bears....I ran to the car under the truck and gave those 2 little girls the bears...they smiled bigger than life and tears abated! ... they were still clinging to those teddies when they went into the ambulance! Please Sue, know that your bears are touching lives out here. After this experience, I will never be without bears again. "
( This from a nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland)