Sarah Cole, guest writer

I hate my life. One reason is because my house is too small. Anyone who comes over probably thinks we’re poor people who can’t afford a decent amount of property. I’m lucky to have my own room for now but my sister Lori will move in with me when she gets old enough. Also, Aunt Maribel is constantly practicing for the Olympic figure skating team and never pays attention to me. Instead she sends me random gifts from faraway countries I don’t care about. For example, a few months ago she was in Norway and sent me a painting of the Lysefjord. Excuse me for not liking the gift, but what 11 year old wants an ancient painting? Needless to say, it now sits under my bed and only gets taken out on the rare occasion that Aunt Maribel decides to drop by for a quick visit.
My two siblings are also terrible. Lori, who recently turned two, is constantly crying about something. Whether it’s feeding her or running to the store for a bag of newly produced Pampers, it always seems to be my job to take care of her! Sometimes I wish she was never born, then maybe I could have a life of my own. Lewis, my brother, is 16 and never stops worrying about me. He is always trying to protect me (I’m still not sure from what) and he is always concerned about my safety- he won’t even let me walk to Merryville Elementary School by myself. Rain or shine, Lewis insists on taking me right up to the front door of the school.
I like my parents well enough. Besides telling me to take care of Lori, they don’t ask me to do much. Mom is hardly ever home due to her multiple shifts at the hospital, and Dad leaves the house to look for a job as soon as I get home from school. After all, someone has to be at the house and look after the baby.
My name is Linda Maribel O’Malley. Yes, my parents thought it would be cute to have each of their kid’s names start with an L. And yes, I was named after my aunt, which does not make me like her more. Now I am sorry if I am ruining someone’s perfectly happy day by constantly talking about all of my misfortunes. In fact, a little over a month ago, on January 1, 1961, I made a resolution to be more optimistic. So far, it hasn’t been going very well. Most days I give up on trying to be positive. But today will be different. Today I will go to school and be the most positive and happy person I can be, because today, the new boy that moved into our town is coming to school for the first time and I want to make a good impression. Today, February 15, is going to be a good day.
After a few hours of repeatedly telling myself that Geoffrey is just a normal person, I finally got the courage to walk up to him and say hello. To my dismay, as soon as I started my dangerous trek across the classroom, the janitor started banging on our door and yelling that we have to turn on the news. Something bad has happened. Miss Marie scurried over to the radio and turned it on. The flat, emotionless voice of the newscaster penetrated the growing silence in the room: “Sabena Flight 548 crashed while attempting to land in Brussels, killing all 72 people aboard, including the US figure skating team” (Ford).
The next few minutes felt like a lifetime while I tried to grasp what the man on the radio just said. I slowly tried to go over the information in my head. The plane crashed. Everyone is dead. The figure skating team. Aunt Maribel! I was in so much shock that I hardly processed my teacher’s broken voice. “Class is dismissed for the day. Everyone go home to your families.”
As if in a dream, I grabbed my belongings and rushed out of the school. The tears streaming down my face and the tears falling from the sky mixed together while I ran home. When I finally made it to the front porch of our little brown house, I burst through the door. Not bothering to stop to tap the excess water off my shoes, I ran straight into my dad’s arms.
“Why,” I sobbed into my dad’s shoulder. “Why did this have to happen?”
“It’s going to be okay. We’re going to be okay,” he quietly replied.
The rest of the day consisted of crying, eating, more crying, and finally sleep. But before I drifted off into the land of fleeting dreams and oblivion to the rest of the world, I realized that I was wrong. I do love my aunt. Well, I did. She tried her best to make me happy, but I took her efforts for granted.
“I’ll miss her,” I murmured to the stuffed turtle she got me last year.

Even when a tragedy occurs and makes everyone want to stop and mourn, the world keeps spinning and life must go on. Our town went back to normal in the next few months. While people still came up to us at church and expressed shallow sympathy for our loss, the event of late February passed into history. School continued to push on, and teachers continued to assign projects and homework.
The only thing that made school bearable was my best friend, Marg. While we have only known each other for a few short years, we have become inseparable. This weekend, we planned to go see 101 Dalmatians at the movie theater in honor of her birthday. She turns 11 on May 16, but we decided to celebrate it on the weekend just in case we have a lot of homework that day. I wanted to get her a big present this year, something that she would cherish forever. Not wanting to waste any time getting started, I sat down on my bed, pulled out a notebook, and began to plan.
Unfortunately, a few minutes into my planning, my eyelids started to get heavy and my thoughts drifted to far off places. I made my best effort to stay awake and keep my eyes open, but after about thirty seconds I gave up. After tossing my notebook and pencil onto the floor, I snuggled under my covers and fell asleep.
The feeling of unnatural and excessive heat woke me up from my rest. I attempted to open my sleep-encrusted eyes to figure out what the flashes of light in the hallway were. Just then I realized how hard it was to breathe. I jolted up in bed as my mind started to form my worst fear. Fire. Throwing aside my covers, I jumped out of bed and threw open the door. A dense smoke surrounded me and spread to fill the rest of my room. I tried to gasp for clean air but immediately felt searing pain as thick smoke filled my lungs. I desperately tried to call for help but the flames engulfed any noise that squeaked out of my mouth. The red and orange fingers started to reach around my door and consume the walls, taking my favorite Andy Griffith Show posters with them. I frantically backed up to the opposite end of the room and huddled in the corner, trying not to think about what would happen to me if no one came to the rescue.

“Linda!” The scream jolted me back awake.
“Lewis! Please,” I tried to cry out to my brother, but before I could finish, I slipped back out of consciousness.

When I finally woke up, I found myself laying in a white bed surrounded by white walls, white chairs, and strange white women with white hats standing over me. I heard the nurse tell her assistant to bring in my family. Soon after, my brother and parents rushed in, with Lori sitting carefree in my mother’s arms. They wasted no time telling me what happened.
“Linda, thank God you’re alright!” My mom fluttered around me, checking my vitals and making sure the nurses sufficiently took care of me.
“Our house caught on fire… nobody knows how it started,” Lewis stated.
My dad pushed Lewis aside. “Everything is not completely lost, but we will not be able to be in our house for a few weeks as it gets repaired. Here’s what happened. During the night, when the fire started, we all smelled the smoke and ran outside.”
“But then I realized you weren’t with us, so I heroically ran inside to save you. You were unconscious and I carried you out,” Lewis’ chest puffed out as he finished his embellished story. He was lucky and escaped with only a few burns. I, on the other hand, escaped with quite a bit of lung damage, which is why I got stuck in this world of white.
Laying in a hospital bed forced me to spend a lot of time with my thoughts. And while I was there, I had the opportunity to look at my life from a different perspective. It took this to realize that I loved my small house. It contained so many memories, from marks on the wall that measure our heights to pictures of us growing up. I love my family. My parents work so hard to provide for us. Lori can cry all she wants, but I still love her too. And Lewis. I used to dislike him, but despite the ways I used to treat him, he saved my life. That is a debt I will never be able to repay. However, I can do my best to show him how much I care about him. I also learned that life isn’t always like a movie with a happy ending. I never got close to Geoffrey, but that’s okay because I was able to strengthen the other relationships in my life.
The world has taken many losses this year, but we have also made leaps. Just a few months after the plane crash, on May 5, “Alan Shephard became the first American in space” (Hitt). Which made me think: if the world can make progress in the midst of sorrow, so can I. I can be more positive and lift others up instead of tearing them down. And I can look at life the way Jesus looked at it: with love, compassion, and grace.
Works Cited
Ford, Bonnie. “Still Crystal Clear.” ESPN, n. d. Web. 28 January 2018.
Hitt, David. “Who Was Alan Shephard?” NASA, n. d. Web. 28 January 2018.
Adler, Renata, et al. The 60s: The Story of a Decade. Modern Library Trade
Paperback Edition, 2017. Print.
“U.S. figure skating team killed in plane crash.” History, 2018, Web. 14 January
“What Happened in 1961 Important News and Events, Key Technology and
Popular Culture.” The People History, 2017, Web. 14 January 2018.