Students write to Massachusetts man feeling slighted after city leaders never honored him for disarming robber on CTA
After a class discussion, sixth-graders at Ogden International School were appalled that city leaders never took strides to honor the heroic deed.
Tears ran down Jean-Paul LaPierre’s face Tuesday as he began reading a batch of thank-you letters from a class of Chicago Public School sixth-graders.
“Not to sound like a wimp. They make me cry. Happy cry,” LaPierre said.
Written in colored markers, some adorned with hearts or lightning bolts, the cards thanked the Boston-area man for disarming a robber on a CTA train while in town to run the Chicago Marathon in October.
Debbie Cohen, their teacher at The Ogden International School of Chicago, read a Sun-Times story in class earlier this month detailing how LaPierre was depressed that Chicago city leaders never thanked him in a meaningful way — even though he was feted for bravery and given a key to the city by the mayor of Weymouth, Mass., where he lives.
“When I first read that story in the paper it was like the universe was talking to me,” Cohen said.
“We’d been reading a book called “Stargirl” and in the story this girl goes around doing good deeds, leaving people gifts, and she does it anonymously, and someone asks her ‘Don’t you want credit?’ and Stargirl says ‘No. Is that important?’”
Cohen brought LaPierre’s dilemma to the attention of her class and posed the question: Is it important to get credit for good deeds?
Responses were mixed, but when it came to LaPierre’s case, the class response was overwhelmingly affirmative that, yes, he put his life on the line for strangers and should receive credit for it. (Video of the incident went viral.)
“Quite frankly, the kids were appalled and embarrassed that our hometown didn’t do anything and this guy’s hometown did do something,” Cohen said. “A student in the class said ‘We should make thank-you cards.’ And they took it and ran with it.”
LaPierre was floored by the gesture.
“I’m just thrilled. It blew my mind,” he said of the letters. “It was very touching stuff they wrote. It was very cool.”
LaPierre, 54, acknowledges his need for positive attention is due to insecurity about his checkered past.
“For a guy like me — I was a drug addict who lived under a bridge for part of my 20s before I got my life back together. So for a guy like me, that’s huge,” LaPierre said after calling the Sun-Times in early January to vent.
“Recognition confirms for me that I made the right decisions, and I am trying live a good life ... that I’m on the right path,” he said. “It makes up for what I screwed up.”