Retired school librarian Gail Downs will talk about her book, The Black Suitcase Mystery—A World War II Remembrance. She will explain how she acquired the suitcase and how fifth grade students worked to solve the mysteries it held.
Published in 2015, the book tells an intriguing story unearthed by 10 year olds in 1991 from a small battered black suitcase containing almost 200 letters written prior to and during World War II.
What the students discovered and recovered over the four years of their research was a poignant story of love against the backdrop of a faraway war, in particular the experiences of B-24 Liberator bomber crews. The program of research and discovery culminated in annual WWII history displays on Memorial Day, hosting Tuskegee Airmen veterans, participating in Valentines for Vets, and raising over $12,000 to schedule a fly-in of a fully restored B-24 Liberator Bomber.
The project, which started as a simple school library assignment, eventually received local, state and national recognition, including four national educational awards, inclusion in the Congressional Record and recognition from President Clinton. Downs’ school became the first elementary school in the nation to be designated a World War II Commemorative Community.
The Suitcase Saga continues as our country approaches the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Downs now serves as the Educational Director on the board of the Oregon Spirit of ’45 which has as its mission to commemorate the achievements and virtues of the World War II Generation, on the 2nd Sunday of every August.
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