updated 02/24/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/24/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

"America loves the Bill Cosby family and grieves with them," wrote reader Paul Whiteley Sr. of Louisville, Ky., in a typical response to the tragic death of the Cosbys' 27-year-old son, Ennis (PEOPLE, Feb. 3). A smaller number of correspondents found, in the separation of little Danny Kirchner's biological parents, occasion to criticize the two-year-old court decision that took custody of the child from the adoptive parents who had raised him since birth.

When I was a teenager, Bill Cosby was the father I wanted. I listened to him talk about his children, and he made me laugh. His stories of Fat Albert and the Gang made me feel like it was okay to be less than perfect. Later, as a single parent of three children, I was helped by his Cosby Show to understand how to give my children love and discipline, to relax with my family, and find humor in life's everyday problems. When I learned of his son's death, I felt as if a member of my own family had been murdered. Thank you, Mr. Cosby, for being with me when I needed guidance. I wish I could do more for you.
Ashland City, Tenn.

Your article about Ennis Cosby broke our hearts. We also lost our only son, 5½ years ago, in a drive-by shooting in New York City. We and our four daughters were devastated. Please tell the Cosby family our prayers and thoughts are with them, and that with time comes healing. We miss our son every day, but our memories are something no one can take away.
Tarrytown, N.Y.

I can well understand the pain and struggle Ennis Cosby went through to achieve his education, since I suffer from several learning disorders. Although I have enjoyed his father's work for decades, my spirits were lifted higher by your article about Ennis's challenges and how he faced and overcame them. I will keep this article. On the days that I just want to stop, drop out and run away from school, I will read again how Ennis Cosby ran his race and won.
Bellingham, Wash.

It pains me that the alleged extortion attempt by the woman claiming to be Bill Cosby's daughter came to light right on the heels of Ennis's murder. The media have been insensitive in questioning Cosby about his and Camille's marriage, especially at this trying time. The Cosbys seem to have resolved their own marital issues, which are none of our business.
Jacksonville, N.C.

I am currently involved in a school debate questioning the rights of a birth parent after an adoption has been made final. I am taking the con position, for no birth-parental rights. Because of your story on Danny Kirchner, my case has just been made stronger. What a travesty that our government cannot protect the rights of one already traumatized little boy.
KATIE MURPHY, Marietta, Ga.

I recall Otakar Kirchner stating, not so long ago, that his son "can't wake without me, go to sleep without me; he doesn't want to do nothing without me." Now we are to believe the child is living comfortably with the woman who told national television she would not have fought for custody if Otakar were not in the picture?
GINA HAYDEN, Carmel, Ind.

With all due respect to social worker Karen Moriarty, she is either ignorant or deluding herself. To suggest that "any problems the Kirchners have are their problems, not Danny's" shows this woman does not understand the trauma another separation will pose for him. Divorce is not something children can be insulated from, and the scars received are ones that can never be removed.
Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Recently I spoke at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington. The students asked me how I felt about African-American stereotypes in Hollywood. I explained that even though I have not been trapped by stereotypes, we should not be quick to judge those who have. I mentioned Hattie McDaniel to them, the first black woman to win an Oscar, for her performance in Gone with the Wind. After a career of playing "domestics" in many films, Miss McDaniel was known to say in reproach to criticism, "I'd rather play a maid than be a maid." This quote was unfortunately attributed to me in The Washington Post and again in PEOPLE. I appreciate the opportunity to correct this.
JASMINE GUY, Los Angeles

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