By Jose Pagliery
Saturday, January 3, 2009
MIAMI -- Flying shoes are back in the news.
This time, the story is about thousands of used shoes that mysteriously ended up on a Miami freeway early Friday.
Thousands of shoes were dumped on the Palmetto Expressway, causing traffic delays in Miami on Friday. A contractor hauled the shoes to a field, where Nashville-based nonprofit group Soles4Souls plans to pick them up Monday.
The culprit? The Florida Highway Patrol wants to know.
Police said thousands of work boots, bath slippers, tennis sneakers, beach sandals, even pairs of roller blades, all inexplicably materialized shortly before 8 a.m. EST on the Palmetto Expressway, disrupting traffic for hours.
A private contractor had to be hired to pick up the sea of soles and deposit them in a field.
Soles4Souls, the Nashville-based nonprofit group that has distributed about 3.9 million pairs of shoes around the world in the past four years, is planning to pick them up on Monday.
Its founder, Wayne Elsey, said the group will then ship the massive batch of mystery shoes by truck to a processing facility in Alabama, where they'll decide where to distribute the shoes.
"We throw nothing away. Right now, they'll probably go to Haiti," said Elsey.
News of the discarded shoes in Miami traveled fast as Web sites all over the world got wind of the story.
Some people e-mailed The Miami Herald with what they believe was the most obvious explanation: It was a protest against President Bush, a reference to his recent shoe-dodging experience in Iraq.
The mystery, however, remains.
FHP spokesman Lt. Pat Santangelo said no witnesses had come forward, but that those responsible would be charged to clean up the mess.
"It's not cheap," he assured.