Never in the 16-year history of PEOPLE has a story moved readers as deeply as our report on the last days of Ryan White. In more than 800 letters, correspondents poured out their hearts to Ryan’s family, to Elton John and Michael Jackson, to writer Bill Shaw and photographer Taro Yamasaki. There were poems, cards and touching personal accounts of relatives or friends battling AIDS. Almost without exception, the letters spoke of tears shed for Ryan. Every reader wanted to assure Ryan’s mother, Jeanne White, that her wish had been granted and that her son’s achievements would not be forgotten. “In Ryan’s short life,” wrote one correspondent, “he accomplished more good than most adults ever will.”
Silently and carefully I read the story of Ryan White’s passage from this world. As I read, I felt as if I had known Ryan all my life. Tears welled in my eyes. Ryan was a brave soldier in a war that has not yet known a victor. Because of Ryan, we can all begin to battle AIDS with compassion and empathy. Thank you, Ryan, for your courageous and valiant effort.
Angela Kristine Klindworth
This was a most sensitive piece of journalism for which your writer, Bill Shaw, and photographer, Taro Yamasaki, deserve the highest praise. Jeanne White did something extraordinary in allowing us to share a private and painful time. She has truly humbled me with her strength and guts. I guess I know where Ryan got his.
As the adoptive mother of a 4-year-old with AIDS, I know it makes my son’s life a little easier each time a compassionate story is published on AIDS. Your feelings for Ryan showed in every picture and sentence. I hope Jeanne White knows that because of her son, mine will be starting school in a few months—it’s the law. He can always hold up his head proudly and never be ashamed of his illness.
Never have I been so emotionally shaken as by Bill Shaw’s tender and dignified account of Ryan White’s last days of life. I can no longer remain a mere spectator. Please, where may I write to Jeanne White and where can donations on Ryan’s behalf be made?
Garden Grove, Calif.
Donations may be sent to: The Ryan White Memorial Fund, First Indiana Bank. 135 No. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, Ind. 46204—ED.
In December, the father of my 2½-year-old daughter died of AIDS. I am going to save this issue of PEOPLE so that when she is older and I tell her about her father. I can also tell her about Ryan and his courageous battle to have people with AIDS treated with kindness and respect. Words cannot take away the pain Ryan’s family is going through, but I hope they know how many people cared and respected Ryan.
In all the years I’ve been reading PEOPLE, your article on Ryan White was by far the most important and meaningful story you have ever published.
North Hollywood, Calif.
As a resident of Ryan’s hometown—Koko-mo, Ind.—I took vicarious pride in the dignity and composure he displayed while undergoing such close scrutiny by the media. I felt frustrated, however, as the name of my town became synonymous with insensitivity and intolerance. While most in Kokomo don’t condone or excuse the actions of those who persecuted the Whites, we do ask that Americans remember the alarmist mentality that pervaded our country (and the world) in 1985. Ironically, it was largely because of Ryan’s ordeal in Kokomo that Americans stopped, took a deep breath and listened when we were told the facts of life—and death—about AIDS. Kokomo has never had a monopoly on small-minded, ignorant people. But I think I speak for most in Kokomo when I send my condolences to the Whites and my appreciation too for the powerful legacy of strength and perseverance that Ryan leaves behind.
Since 1985 I have lost more than 70 friends to AIDS. Joyful, caring, productive friends, many of whom, already laboring under a death sentence in the prime of their lives, were subjected to bigotry and mistreatment too appalling to describe. The tragedy of Ryan White’s passing may somehow help introduce compassion into the collective consciousness in dealing with any victim of this insidious virus. They are, after all, all God’s children. And they will all be missed.
J. Kenneth Poe
We all know that Ryan gave strength and understanding to an innocent world about AIDS, but he has given me something special. I can now face my eventual death from AIDS and go out of this world with a proud heart and a courage that wasn’t there before. Thank you, Ryan, PEOPLE, Jeanne, Bill Shaw and Elton.
K. Lane Gibson
No one has truly died until they have been forgotten. Ryan White will never truly die.
Dawn R. Clees