In a rare bright spot after a weekend of fear and confusion at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a beloved Teddy bear has been reunited with its family.
Rufus, a red-hoodie-clad Teddy bear with a deep family connection, was among the 23,000 items abandoned at the airport during the frenzy after suspected shooter Esteban Santiago opened fire at a baggage terminal, killing five people and injuring six others.
Canadian teacher Kim Lariviere, whose daughter Courtney owns the bear, turned to the Broward Sheriff’s office for help in locating Rufus. The sheriff’s office retweeted Lariviere’s plea for help; several news outlets picked up the cause. The hunt was on.
Tuesday afternoon, Lariviere tweeted the good news, first announced by Fort Lauderdale Airport on Twitter, “Rufus has been located!! Thx for sharing everyone. One happy kid!”
When a Miami Herald reporter called her shortly after the reunion, Lariviere said the family had just come from retrieving Rufus at the airport and was having a celebratory lunch.
“We haven’t had this happiness in our souls for a couple days now,” Lariviere said.
Lariviere, her husband and two daughters were at Fort Lauderdale airport Friday after a seven-day cruise aboard the MSC Divina when shots rang out. In the scramble, Rufus, who was a gift to Courtney from Lariviere’s father before he died, was left behind at Gate D8 in Terminal 2.
The airport is still working to reunite thousands of items with their owners. An unidentified company is sorting the items at a hangar in a secure part of the airport and FLL plans to start a website in the coming days with photos of the items whose owners could not be found.
Passengers who lost something at the airport during the shooting are advised to file a claim at 866-435-9355.