Dear Mr. President…

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Local girl receives letter from George W. Bush

By Dale James / Selma Times – Journal

Dorothye Jade Howe &045;&045; friends call her D.J. &045;&045; never actually expected to get a reply when she wrote to President Bush.

But when you’re &uot;10 fixin’ to be 11 in April,&uot; you possess a certain childlike faith that too often gets lost along the way to adulthood.

The Meadowview Christian School fifth-grader wanted to know if maybe the president could help her dad. Andy Howe was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in September.

D.J.’s class has been studying about the president, about how he holds the most powerful political office in the entire world. So D.J. figured that if anybody could help, the president of the United States could.

Tracye Howe, D.J.’s mom, admits she was skeptical at first.

She pauses for a moment and looks away. &uot;I was real proud of her for thinking about her dad,&uot; she continues at last. &uot;But we never dreamed she would get anything back. We just put a stamp on it and put it in the mail.&uot;

So no one was any more surprised than Mrs. Howe when she went to the mailbox a couple of months later and found an oversized envelop with a return address that read simply &uot;The White House, Washington, D.C.&uot;

What they got was a letter from George Bush, along with an autographed picture of the president. D.J. thought that was pretty neat. She took it to school the next day to share. Her friends thought it was pretty neat, too.

Civics class suddenly became much more interesting.

But what really has D.J. and her mom excited is that shortly after they received the first letter from the White House, a second letter arrived. The most powerful elected official in the entire world had taken the time to send a second letter addressed to D.J.’s dad. It reads:

Marvels D.J., &uot;The strangest thing was they knew what my daddy’s name was without me telling them.&uot;

Lou Gehrig’s disease is another name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The disease attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Eventually, its victims lose all voluntary muscle control and become totally paralyzed. They cannot breathe or even swallow on their own.

Andy Howe is 42. When he was diagnosed with ALS in September, they gave him six months to live. &uot;He’s getting weaker,&uot; Tracye Howe says softly, glancing toward the room where her husband is resting. &uot;He’s progressing quite rapidly. His speech is beginning to slur.&uot;

Mrs. Howe confides that she and her husband were shocked when doctors first broke the news. &uot;We did lots of crying,&uot; she says. &uot;But then we said, ‘We’re going to deal with this.’&uot;

Since then, she says, they’ve did their best to take things one day at a time.

D.J. says her experience has taught her a lot. She has learned, for example, that even 10-year-olds can write the president and get a reply. And she’s learned something else, too.