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Posted: 11/14/2001 6:51:52 AM EDT
[url]http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/11/14/kindnessrepaid.ap/index.html[/url] South Carolina students repay old NYC kindness November 14, 2001 Posted: 2:20 AM EST (0720 GMT) COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- A group of South Carolina schoolchildren said Tuesday they have raised nearly half a million dollars, exceeding their goal to buy New York City a fire truck and help repay a 134-year debt of kindness. Efforts by White Knoll Middle School students to replace one of the fire trucks lost in the September 11 attacks got a boost when it was discovered that New York firefighters had given a fire wagon to Columbia two years after the Civil War. Columbia officials at the time promised never to forget the favor. "It shows we care about people in New York," said eighth-grader Laurin Huffstetler. "It also shows we keep our promises." The children plan to present a check for $447,265 to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. That covers the $350,000 cost of the truck and any other equipment firefighters wish to buy. South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges hopes the truck will wear a little South Carolina pride. At Tuesday's announcement, he gave students a blue Palmetto State flag to take to New York. White Knoll Principal Nancy Turner said she was surprised the students were able to raise the money so quickly. But she said the children never doubted it. When she told adults about buying the fire truck, they all asked, "How much will it cost?" All the students wanted to know was, "Who was going to drive?" It was Turner who stumbled across records of New York's long-ago gift while doing research about the cost and what type of truck to buy. In 1867, Columbia was still struggling to recover from the devastation of the Civil War when the New York Firemen's Association heard the city was still using bucket brigades to fight fires. The New Yorkers -- many of them former Union soldiers -- took up a collection to buy Columbia a fire wagon. When the wagon was lost during shipment, they took up another collection and bought yet another wagon. Former Confederate Col. Samuel Melton was so overwhelmed that he promised on behalf of South Carolina's capital to someday return the favor "should misfortune ever befall the Empire City." Inspired by the historical link, William Murray, a New York attorney with South Carolina ties, pledged $100,000 to the campaign if the students could raise the remainder. Columbia Fire Chief John Jansen, a native New Yorker, also joined in to help lead the fund-raising efforts. While emphasis had been put on the repayment of the 19th century kindness, several officials Tuesday focused on the lessons of giving. "This is the ultimate example of character education," said state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum. "These students have given a gift to the people of New York, but they have also given a gift to all of us." Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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