We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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“ma, I’m heading out to school.” In spite of the snowfall that occurred last night, the sun greeted me with its gleaming radiance on my face. As I looked out on the streets, my eyes immediately  became blinded by the reflection coming off the snow and ice piled on the street. I walked to school carefully, but since I was late, I had to speed things up. Everything was going well until I reached a hill. At first glance, the road seemed clear, but in reality, the cement was layered by a thin, smooth sheet of black ice. At the same time, 6-year-old me picked up the pace as I worried more about being marked tardy.  Murphy’s Law immediately struck me as I slipped and tumbled forward onto my face. I felt pain on my forehead and I shed a few tears, but I picked myself up and headed on toward my elementary school. Upon arrival, I realized I was late due to the fact that the front doors were closed and locked. I had to ring the doorbell. After waiting, the door slammed open and the person in charge of Attendance greeted me with shock on her face. At thetime, I didn’t realize that there was something wrong with my face so I acted normally and said, “Good morning.”  Rather than greet me likewise, the woman began with a barrage of questions: “What happened to you? Are you ok? Did someone do this to you?” Since I had only arrived in America the year before, my English wasn’t polished enough to comprehend what the lady was saying, nor was I able to provide a good enough answer to her questions. I decided to remain silent as her words were not understood. After a few seconds, the lady held my hand and brought me to the nurse’s office. In my mind at the time, I thought I was in some serious trouble due to being late.  Before I knew it, I was standing in front of the door that I thought would lead me to suspension. The nurse began asking me the same questions as the lady who opened the door, but she also soaked a handful of paper tow- els and started wiping away the dried blood on my face. It was then that I caught a glimpse of my face and I realized that I was injured.  However, despite knowing why the adults were reacting this way, it didn’t calm me down. After I was treated, I was asked the same couple of questions. Making use of my limited vocabulary I kept on repeating “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I got more nervous as time passed, and eventually I was hit with the question “Who did this to you?” Recognizing the word “who” I said out loud one of the few nouns I knew: “Mom.”  Wasting no time, the principal called home. Using her broken English, my mother tried to comprehend the situation. I was then transferred to the phone and I told her about the injury and how I fell. The dreadful experience went on for about 3 more minutes, though it felt like an eternity, as my mother tried explaining what happened to the principal as best she could. It wasn’t until the translator arrived that I began to truly feel relief. The mis- understanding was eventually cleared and I was sent to class.  When I got home, I was greeted by my mother standing right in front of the door. In my head I was thinking, “I AM IN SO MUCH TROUBLE.” Instead, my mother gave me a relieved smile and scolded me to be more careful next time. Spoiler Alert: that was not the last time I fell on ice and ended up with an injury. Fortunately, for my mother and myself, my language skills had improved by the next fall. 

© Ting Shing Liu. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.