Feature

It wasn't all bad

A schoolgirl gets a surprise letter; the African Burial Ground National Monument is unveiled in Manhattan; and an Ohio family finds it easy to remember birthdays.

A 4-year-old English schoolgirl who attached a letter to a balloon has received an answer from a man in southern China, nearly 6,000 miles away. Alice Maines of Manchester launched her balloon in July, during her school’s summer fair. The idea was to see whose balloon would travel the farthest. Last month, a letter and photograph arrived from Xie Yufei, 26, of Guangzhou, 75 miles north of Hong Kong. “I picked up this balloon when my friends and I were playing on August 25,” he reported. The kids were elated. “You could have heard a pin drop when I showed the children on a map how far the balloon had flown,” said teacher Jason Redmond.

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Sixteen years after the remains of more than 400 freed and enslaved Africans were discovered in lower Manhattan, the African Burial Ground National Monument has been unveiled. The $5 million structure marks the spot where an estimated 20,000 people of African descent were laid to rest during the 17th and 18th centuries; the National Park Service has declared it the oldest and largest such mass grave in North America. The granite monument, which features a map of the world centered on West Africa, is graced with the legend, “For all those who were lost / For all those who were stolen / For all those who were left behind / For all those who are not forgotten.”

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When William and Jenna Cotton of Marysville, Ohio, had their first child, Ayden, he was born on Oct. 2, 2003. Their second baby, Logan, arrived exactly three years later, on Oct. 2, 2006. This year, it looked like the Cottons’ third child would break the streak, since Jenna’s due date was Sept. 30. As it turned out, an overdue baby girl, Kayla, was born on Oct. 2. The chances of having three kids with the same birthday are approximately 7.5 in one million, said Ohio State University mathematics professor Bill Notz.

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