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Our story about 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff’s tragic death while piloting a plane across the country (PEOPLE, April 29) brought one of the largest reader responses this year. Overwhelmingly, correspondents disapproved of her flight and criticized her parents for encouraging and promoting it.


Jessica Dubroff’s mother elicits no sympathy from those of us who see children as the most fragile and precious gift life has to offer. As an educator, I would like to inform her that it is. our responsibility to teach children about reasonable limitations and how to accomplish greatness within that framework. She wouldn’t allow Jessica to read fairy tales. How ironic that she seems to live her life in one.

CHRISTY STANGA, Woodstock, Ga.

I admire any parent who limits television exposure and teaches good nutritional habits, but to say all children’s books are lies suggests Ms. Hathaway suffers from extreme paranoia. That she should say so soon after the loss of her child in a violent manner, that Jessica “died in a state of joy,” implies deep denial. CAROL RASMUSSEN. Eureka, Calif.

Lisa Hathaway denied her daughter one of the most precious gifts of childhood—fantasy play. Most 7-year-olds would pretend to fly and dream of the day when they could make her dream a reality; Jessica’s parents thrust her into a world where her actions meant, sadly, life or death.


True, Jessica did experience the joy of flying, but because of questionable parental judgment, she will never experience the other, more significant, joys of life. Was granting her the freedom to fly worth her life ending at age 7?

TRACY COBB PAUL, Veazie, Maine

The media is as much to blame for this tragedy as the flight instructor was in deciding to take off during stormy weather. I am sure he felt the pressure of the media hype, and that certainly played a part in his decision. The media should have been focusing on the idiocy of the whole situation instead of acting as if Jessica was another Amelia Earhart.

MARK HUBERT, Sugar Land, Texas

Contrary to your statement that Jessica’s mother “has not worked for several years,” it appears she has been very hard at work raising happy, healthy, intelligent, responsible children. Like all parents, Lisa Hathaway and Lloyd Dubroff may have shown some lapses in judgment, but they shouldn’t be judged more harshly than the rest of us just because the consequences were tragic. I see babies every day not belted into car seats; young bike riders without helmets; kids Rollerblading down the middle of the street. The consequences are just as potentially deadly, only not as worthy of media attention. Leave Hathaway alone! As a mom, I know her heart is breaking for the child she loves and lost.


I can’t remember having read a crueler article. You act as though Madonna has no right to be pregnant. Throughout her career, she has shown that she is hardworking, dedicated and compassionate—all excellent traits for mothering. If you ask me, her child is very fortunate.

K.A. MCKENNA, Boston


Last year I too was diagnosed with breast cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, I met Suzie Wilson, who died just after your story was published. I remember feeling a little guilty when I was able to go home and lie low for a few days. Not Suzie. She would go directly to the film set to be there for Mara. Her admirable style, strong spirit and wonderful sense of humor always lifted me up and touched me in a profound way.

CAROL NEAL Thousand Oaks, Calif.


Thank you for your story about Gabriela Salinas, the little Bolivian girl who is being treated for cancer in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis [PEOPLE, April 15]. I’m delighted to report that Gabriela is responding well and celebrated her eighth birthday recently. I would like to clear up one misconception. I was quoted as saying, “My father founded St. Jude so no child should be turned away.” Omitted was my phrase “because of an inability to pay.” Regrettably, some children are referred elsewhere because St. Jude doesn’t have the treatment programs for their diseases. But for all who are admitted, money is no object at St. Jude. That is the essence of my father’s promise.