MANCHESTER, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - It was 30-years ago today that a 10-year old girl from Manchester made international headlines with her simple but powerful message of peace.
Samantha Smith wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov expressing fears about nuclear war. He wrote back inviting her to visit his country.
The young ambassador died two years later in a plane crash after her trip to the former Soviet Union. But Smith's message and legacy lives on especially in children who are learning that one person, no matter how young they are, can make a difference.
Jessica Dwyer clearly remembers when an army of media descended on this elementary school -- her good friend Samantha Smith was the center of all the attention.
Dwyer says nobody knew the 10-year old wrote a letter to Soviet leade Yuri Andropov. It was at the height of the cold war and she expressed her concerns about Russia and the U.S. getting into a nuclear war. She ended saying "god made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.' The 4th grader became famous around the world when she got a letter back from Andropov inviting her to visit his homeland.
Samantha and her parents spent two weeks touring and learning about the Soviet Union. But she didn't live long enough to see peace between the two super powers, she died two years after her trip in a plane crash.. At her former school, students walk past her portrait showing her standing before American and Soviet flags. Teachers say Samantha's message rings true today.
'We feel the children can use her message every day even on the playground, solving problems peacefully,' said Jennie Galletta a third grader teacher at the school.
These 3rd graders spent nearly two weeks learning about Samantha's life. They wrote message of peace and put them in a bottle, similar to what Samantha did when she was in Russia. They also created these posters as a tribute to the young ambassador.
'She just wanted the whole world to know that she wanted peace,' said third grader Bailey Perkins.
Every year since Samantha's death, school officials get a call from a teacher or a student across the country wanting to know what Samantha was like, her friends say that underscores her legacy that is known throughout the world.
'That one voice can make this huge impact not just in their community but in the entire world and that is exactly what she did,' said Jessica Dwyer Samantha's good friend. Spreading the word of peace that lives on.