By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Protest for freedom of expression ends, pen pals meet
Out of the Morgue
Student protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, June 3, 1989, conducting a peaceful protest hours before Chinese tanks rolled in and soldiers opened fire on protesters, which continued into the wee hours of June 4. The death toll was estimated to be at least 1,000, with some estimates much higher. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.

Many in this country will recall images televised and in print of the June 3, 1989, aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Massacre where Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy supporters in Beijing. Ten thousand Chinese soldiers collided with an estimated 100,000 citizens protecting students who were demonstrating for democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and transparency of government. Most accounts state 1,000 people died that day. 

Throughout the week, the Great Bend Tribune provided coverage courtesy of the Associated Press for its readership.  

Tribune Editor Chuck Smith had this to say in his editorial, “The difference in the last 21 years,”

“Babies born the day Bobbie Kennedy died have become adults. Tuesday marked the 21st anniversary of his death.

“It’s interesting to reflect upon the changes that have come to this nation in 21 years and wonder how they would have been affected had Kennedy not been gunned down. 

“For instance, while we’re watching news about Chinese students facing the military, how many of us thought back to the Democratic convention of 1968 when students confronted police in Chicago? 

“The death rate wasn’t high, as it has been in China, but the violence was certainly there. Would it have been different if the protesters thought they had someone inside the convention hall who had their interests at heart? 

“We have to wonder how Kennedy would have handled environmental issues, the space race or the crisis of the new poor — the homeless families.

“By his record, we could judge that he would at least have taken those problems to heart. But it is simplistic to assume that the 1970s and ’80s would have been turned around by one man.

“There is little doubt that Robert F. Kennedy would have made a difference in this country, but perhaps while we reflect upon his death we should also reflect on the need for everyone to work on these problems. 

Not even Bobbie Kennedy could solve all the problems by himself.”

Today, a report from Reuter’s news agency states that Hong Kong and Beijing are handling the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre differently. 

“Tens of thousands joined a sombre candlelight vigil in Hong Kong on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire on student-led democracy protesters in and around Tiananmen Square, as authorities in Beijing went into lockdown.”

It went on to state “In the former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems formula” that guarantees rights and freedoms not seen on the mainland, organizers said 180,000 joined the peaceful vigil, filling six football fields.

In comparison, authorities in mainland China, where the anniversary remains taboo, deployed a security blanket in and around Tiananmen Square.”

Pen pals meet

Half a world away, Great Bend read about a meeting between two long-time pen pals. Back before Facebook and other social media apps made it easy to electronically build relationships with people all over the world, it wasn’t unusual for people to sign up through various organizations to be matched with a pen pal, and to build relationships through hand-written letters sent by airmail. 

This week in 1989, Tawana Grover of Great Bend met her pen pal, Deanna Stacy of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at the airport in Wichita on Friday, the day before her wedding. The two had corresponded over nine years, since they were in the sixth grade. It was part of a Girl Scout project. 

“Both young women said they felt very nervous as they looked for each other at the airport, but they felt comfortable with each other at once after they met. They recognized one another immediately from the pictures they had exchanged over the years.” 

At the time they met, they were both 20 years old. Over the years, they’d shared their friends, their families, their social lives, and more, the feature by Tribune Local Life Editor Linda Dueser stated. 

“Although her mother has cautioned her that marriage sometimes changes things between friends, Tawana has assured Deanna that won’t be the case in their relationship. ‘Now that we’ve met we’ll stay in touch,’ she said. In fact, she and her husband plan to do everything they can to get to New York for a visit someday.” 

Tawana married Todd Berens of Great Bend that week. We were able to track her down and reached out to her hoping to learn if she continues to stay in touch with Deana. We haven’t heard back yet, but when we do, we’ll provide an update. 

Just for fun

On the morning of June 7, 1989, for one second, the time was 01:23:45, 6-7-89. 

otm_vlc_pen pals.jpg
Tribune file June 7, 1989 Great Bend Tribune caption: “Visiting with each other Friday, after meeting for the first time, Tawana Grover, left, and her pen pal of nine years, Deanna Stacy of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., exchange smiles.” - photo by Tribune file photo