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I Am Here Today
I look out from my podium at the students filling in the school gym bleachers. Even after sharing this program with at least a thousand other schools it seems, I still get choked up and nervous. I guess you could say I’m still ashamed, but I found a way to use my shame for good. I only hope that some of the kids out there will take my message and do something about it. This is always my biggest worry. What if all these talks have been for nothing. What if everyone I have spoken to just think this is a waist of time and no one even pays attention.
“Good after noon students! Please join me in welcoming Tracy Fletcher!” my thoughts were interrupted by the principal’s welcome. The gym was filled with applause, and I smiled and waved until it died down.
“Well thank you for that very kind welcome. Now I know what some of you are thinking. ‘Oh great, another person who is just going to tell us how awful we are for an hour.’ But I assure you, that is not why I am here. I am here to honor a young girl who I wish very much I could say were my friend. But I am sad to say, she wasn’t. How many of you tease people who are different from you. ‘Oh she is here to tell us how awful we are.’ ‘They don’t care, they are too stupid to notice.’
I already told you I am not here to tell you how bad you are, and people you make fun of always feel hurt, no matter what you think. Now, I am going to tell you a story from my junior year at high school. I apologize ahead of time for any pauses I may make. Even after all these years, it still is very hard for me to tell, but I know I must, in honor of Bianca.
Now just so you know, I was very well known and well liked in high school. I had three girlfriends that followed me everywhere. There was this girl our age that we just loved to torture. I remember one day we saw her sitting on a bench outside by herself. I walked over and sat down by her, my friends stood around us. She looked up at her book at us with a kind of worried look. I saw she was wearing a pink flowered sundress with a laced collar. Her brown hair was in two pigtails. I remember trying to look as kind as possible when I said, ‘Wow that dress looks really good on you!’
She looked up at me as if she couldn’t believe I said something nice. A smile appeared on her face and she quietly said thanks. That’s when my fake kindness faded away and I said, very rudely I might add, ‘Yeah I remember it looked good on me too...when I was like 6.’ My friends and I laughed so hard and her smile instantly went away. She got up and ran inside. We were still laughing as hard as ever.” I pause because there is something in my throat. I take a sip of water and slowly swallow it. I clear my throat with a cough before going into the hardest part of this story.
“Now this was a daily thing for me and my friends. Bianca always wore cloths that were way to young for her. We had a great time laughing at her everyday. Then one night,” I pause again and take another drink. “ I was walking home from my friends house when I felt like I was being followed. This guy came up to me and asked if I had a boyfriend. When I kept quiet he got in front of me and asked again. I looked down and tried to get around him. Three more guys came out of an alley. They surrounded me and pulled me into the alley they had just come from.
They kept kicking, punching, and kissing me. I tried to scream but they would not let me. I remember thinking that this must be the end.” I close my eyes as I relive this again. “I was terrified and so I screamed. The biggest guy pulled out a knife. I was instantly silent. I was frozen with fear. Then he came at me with the knife and I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see myself get stabbed. I knew it was coming any second, but I didn’t feel anything. My first thought was it killed me right away. I just knew I was dead. I opened my eyes to see I was not dead. I was still in the alley, only the guys were not around me. I saw the man with the knife trying to get someone off his arm. The other three were trying to help him. Only the split second before he finally pulled her off him did I realize who it was.... it was Bianca.
It happened so fast. He pulled her off of his arm and shoved the knife into her as far as he could. She let out a shriek of pain and fell on the ground. Panic hit the four men’s faces and they ran away. I crawled over to Bianca. Blood was everywhere. For a second I didn’t know what to do. I was in total shock. Then when I came to my senses I tried to pick her up, which was easier than I thought, and I ran around trying to find a place with a phone. It was looking hopeless and I was feeling faint. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital.
My mother and father were crying and thanking God that I was okay. I looked around and then it hit me. I looked from my mother to father and as if they knew what I was going to ask, my mother started crying and my father shook his head. Bianca was gone!
It was a year or so after this when I finally went to her parents. Or I guess I should say her mom. It turns out that her father to the point that she got amnesia abused her mother. She thought everyday was a week after her 6th birthday. She didn’t realize she ever got older, which explains why she dressed like a six year old. I asked if it was okay if I went into her room, and her mother said it was.
I opened the door slowly and my heart seemed to stop. Tears started falling down my face when I looked into the eyes of at least a dozen pictures of Bianca. I walked over to her desk, and saw a piece of paper sticking out of it. Well curiosity got the better of me and I took it out. I was reading a suicide note that Bianca wrote. She said she was tired of being teased by Tracy! She wrote my name as the reason she wanted to end her life. Guilt cannot even start to describe the feeling I felt at that moment.
And then I realized something. She was so upset about what I was doing to her that she wanted to kill herself. Yet when she saw me in the alley, she didn’t just walk past and say I was getting what I deserve. She heroically came and gave up her life to save mine. To this day I don’t know why she did that, but because she did is why I am here today.
After that day I changed. I was kind and friendly to those who were different. I ask you to do the same. Please don’t be in a situation where someone may want to end their life because of how miserable you are making them. Just treat everyone the same. I thank you for letting me speak to you today and I hope my story spoke to you.” I look up to see the whole school standing and clapping, several with tears in their eyes. I have a feeling that this school might be a bit different know. Another job well done.