After a 13-hour trip to Idaho, Lt. O'Connor was assigned to a team with fellow officers hailing from Northern California, Florida, Montana, Indiana, Idaho, Texas, and Manitoba, Canada. The team also includes one Special Olympian who is from Michigan. Lt. O'Connor says that the LETR is truly a global endeavor as it includes team members from every state in the United States and from places as far-reaching as Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Cyprus, Ireland, Poland, and Newfoundland, to name just a few.
Thursday, January 29, 2009, was the first day of the LETR, and it started at 6:00 am with breakfast. Afterward, team members took a bus to Lake Coeur d'Alene where they awaited the arrival of the Flame of Hope torch, which came via police patrol boat. Dignitaries from the city and state, including Idaho's First Lady, Mrs. Lori Otter, were there to meet the torch and to see it on its way. From there, LETR members ran with the torch through the downtown of Coeur d'Alene to the town library. Lt. O'Connor said that the streets were lined with cheering residents holding American flags. A welcoming ceremony was held, and the torch was run around the downtown area for all to see. Lt. O'Connor's team then traveled north to the border of Idaho for their first reception and a presentation.
After a two-hour drive, escorted by the Idaho State Police, the teams arrived at the border crossing with Canada where they stopped to run the torch to the border. There they were met by officers from Customs, Immigration and the Idaho State Police. Also present were the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and students from two elementary schools - one from the United States and the other from Canada.
LETR team members did not stay still for long and were on the move, traveling south to the towns of Osburn, Bonners Ferry, Wallace, and Sandpoint. Lt. O'Connor said that the reception for the torch from each town was impressive. Large crowds gathered to help cheer team members on and to witness the festivities. On each leg of the run, a member of the LETR and a Special Olympian were given the opportunity to speak about what the event means to them. Lt. O'Connor admitted that the speeches were very poignant and caused more than one spectator to tear up or to cheer loudly.
Today, Friday, January 30, the LETR was again planning to move the torch in a southerly direction and on to its final stop at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
To see more pictures of these events click here.
To read an article about the events in Coeur d'Alene click here.