Samantha Smith showing the letter she received from the leader of the Soviet Union. AP File Photo

“The world was stunned on a rainy August night when a Bar Harbor Airlines plane crashed and burned in Auburn, claiming eight lives.

“Among the victims was 13-year-old Samantha Smith of Manchester, who became an American sweetheart in 1983 after visiting the Soviet Union at the invitation of the late Yuri Andropov,” the leader of the communist state, as the Lewiston Daily Sun’s Jennifer Sullivan wrote.

Worried about a nuclear war, she had written to Andropov to ask him about the possibility.

“God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight,” she told him in her letter.

A letter signed by Andropov, but apparently written by Mikhail Gorbachev, who later led the Soviet Union during its final years, invited Smith to come and see for herself. When she did, Smith became an international celebrity, a voice for peace at a tenuous time.

The Beechcraft-99 plane left Boston about 9:30 with plans to stop in Augusta and Bangor. A stop in Auburn was added to accommodate a couple of passengers.

An hour after it left Boston, the plane crashed a half mile east of the airport, skimming the treetops before skidding 100 feet and flipping over an embankment and catching fire, the Sun reported.

Smith and her father were among the dead.

“No tragedy in recent times has touched so many hearts,” Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan said.

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