Hugs Across America began as a direct and intuitive response to the World Trade Center disaster. As a teacher at The Churchill School in lower Manhattan, I was charged with comforting children whose lives had been dramatically and tragically impacted when they saw the Towers fall on the morning of September 11, 2001. Many of my students lived in the area, others had family working there, and all were terrified.
When classes resumed, we tried to process the pain through writings, and craft or art activities but one child said, “all I know is, I need a hug”.He was given a hug, of course, but also one of three teddy bears that I happened to have in the classroom. All of the children felt the same need and those three bears were passes around, hugged and shared all day long. I promised the children that when I returned to school, each would have a teddy of his or her own to ease the many moments of fear. The remarkable reduction of anxiety and clearly positive impact of the teddy bear hugs sparked a love story that continues today.
Here is a visual representation of what collecting and distributing 58,000 teddy bears actually looked like.