Thousands of work boots, bath slippers, tennis sneakers and beach sandals — even roller blades, all inexplicably materialized, strewn upon the southbound lanes, disrupting traffic for hours.
A mountain of those thousands of used shoes is now somewhere in northern Miami-Dade County, and Florida Highway Patrol officials are distributing them to local and national nonprofits that promise to give them to the poor.
No witnesses have yet come forward to explain just how thousands of shoes appeared at 7:42 a.m. on the southbound lanes of the busy highway between the Bird Road and Miller Drive exits.
Some think a truck’s doors simply burst open, allowing its massive shipment to scatter across the concrete. Others suggest an intricate prank, much like the one pulled off by thieves who returned a statue stolen from the West Palm Beach home of Bernard Madoff.
And others consider it a protest against President Bush, a reference to his recent shoe-dodging experience in Iraq.
Whatever the case, several nonprofits were invited to pick up as many shoes as they could carry from the stack that the Florida Highway Patrol was keeping in northern Miami-Dade.
As put by FHP spokesman Lt. Pat Santangelo: if no one claims the thousands of shoes, they’ll go to the most needy.
The thousands of shoes caused long traffic delays and a two-hour clean-up Friday morning, according to state officials. Employees of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Road Rangers service, which is meant to provide roadside assistance, managed to push all the shoes into one lane using large brooms. A private contractor was hired to use a front-end loader to pick up the shoes by the dozen and load them into a large dump truck, Santangelo said.
Law enforcement officials said the person responsible for leaving behind the sea of soles will be charged for the clean up.
Santangelo said he could not estimate the cost.
”It’s not cheap,” he said.
Santangelo received dozens of calls Friday from people across the country who offered to take the shoes and distribute them to needy people in distraught regions of the world.
One option, he said, was donating the used shoes to impoverished Haitian residents who are still suffering from the aftermath of the 2008 hurricane season.
Soles4Souls, a shoe-giving charitable organization with projects around the world, offered to take any shoes left from the giant mountain still in North Miami Beach. Whatever shoes are not taken by local charities will be given to the large Tennessee -based nonprofit, Santangelo said.