← Back to all stories

Gabriella Potkay

Greendale Middle School, Greendale, Wisconsin

I had always thought America was a happy place. That the people in it respected one another and that we come together as a community. I knew there were occasional hardships, but overall I thought America was a place for people to love one another.

November 21st, 2021. My mom, stepdad, and I were at Bob’s Furniture looking for a mattress. I had just gotten a new bed frame and we were testing out the mattresses when all of a sudden my mom’s phone rang. “Alyssa” was the name on the phone.

“I wonder why she’s calling,” we thought.

I could hear my sister weeping faintly from the phone. I immediately knew something was wrong. Before I could find anything out my mom hurried us to the car.

“We have to go pick up Alyssa,” said my mom.

“What’s going on?” I questioned.

No answer. I figured it was something important that I’d find out later, so for that moment, I kept quiet. I knew this was a stressful moment for my family even though I didn’t know what was going on. It felt like the longest drive not knowing where we were going and why my 23-year-old sister was crying. Finally, we arrived at a bar. She came out with her hands over her face and started explaining what happened. It was hard to understand with the sobbing, but I made out some of what she was saying. I heard something about Jackson getting hit and not knowing if her cousin will be ok. My stomach dropped. I remembered seeing him at my stepsisters’ family parties. He was shy, but always had a smile on his face. I did not think it was as serious as it turned out to be.

A week went by. I found out that Jackson had died. I saw the stories all over social media, so it wasn’t hard to find out how he had gotten hit. He was walking with his baseball team in a Christmas parade. No one saw it coming, but all of a sudden a car rammed through crowds of people. It was a nationwide story. I saw people posting about wearing jerseys to school. #Jerseysforjackson was going around. I know I was not related to Jackson because he was the cousin of my stepsisters, but this made me so happy for him. When I came to school that day and saw that almost everyone had jerseys on, it truly warmed my heart. I know this is not even a little bit of the justice he deserved, but I’m glad that we could come together as a community to celebrate his life.

The funeral was the hardest part of this whole situation. I remember seeing all the people that were big strong adults before cry like kids in the dark. I remember seeing all the children on his team look devastated because they would never get to play with Jackson again. I may not have known Jackson the best, but that funeral felt like I was very close to him. The worst part of the funeral was his casket getting taken out. Everyone sang take me out to the ball game in a depressive tone. It was nice to see everyone coming together to sing that, but it was very heartbreaking.

Through these challenging times, I saw people come together as a community, but I also witnessed that not everything in America is flawless and bubbly. Sometimes, people do evil things, but as long as we come together as a community, we can build people back up. America is happy, but I have realized that this is not always the case. My view on America has changed, but not in a bad way. My view of America changed in a way that it is more realistic, but still a happy view.

© Gabriella Potkay. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.