The Wall This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   It was a cloudy day. A light mist fell quietlyover the city and desolation filled the air. Curious, I had left thegroup and walked down an empty path. My eyes fell on a stone wall about10 feet ahead, and I ran to it. Small American flags were in front;flowers were scattered on the wet concrete. The place wasdeserted.

Engraved in the wall were thousands and thousands ofnames. At the time I hadn't the slightest idea whose names they were orwhy they were there. I ran my fingers over the stone; it was cold andsmooth. I quickly withdrew my hand at the sound of footsteps. A tall manappeared out of the fog. He had a piece of paper. My eyes turned to thewall again. I started reading the names but they were cold and blank.They meant nothing to me.

Suddenly a soft whimper broke thesilence. I looked over and saw the man crying. His hand was pressed flatagainst the wall and he was on his knees. I was in fourth grade andstill thought my daddy was the strongest man in the world. Never had Iseen a grown man cry.

I pretended not to see him and kept staringat the names. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him pray. He thensilently got up and walked away, leaving the paper. When I was sure hewas gone I ran to where he had knelt and scooped up the paper. Athousand questions ran through my head. What is so powerful, soemotional, that it makes a grown man cry? What do the names mean? Doesthis wall really symbolize something as dark and complex as it seems?The paper had the answers to all my questions.

"You were thefirst person I killed," the letter read. "I killed seven more afteryou. Killing is something I cannot describe. I know what I have donecannot be excused, but I beg for your forgiveness in heaven, and hopethat those here on earth will also find it in their hearts to forgiveme. If only I knew what it was like to die maybe I would not troublemyself so much. Right now and forever I will carry this weight - that Ihave killed a human being."

I could not read anymore. Tearsflowed from my eyes and down my cheeks. I set the letter carefully inits place and, like the man, I prayed.

Despite my sadness andfear, I forced myself to read the small notes on the backs of flags, thecards attached to flowers and other letters. "I'm sorry I could notsave you. I tried. This feeling of guilt will not go away," oneread.

My mom called to me, her voice piercing the softpitter-patter of the rain. I left obediently, but the words in theletters have stayed with me.

I visited Washington D.C. a yearlater. Again I went to the wall, but this time many were gathered tomourn those who had died for our country. Instead of just watching them,I cried with them. I knew I would never know the pain our soldiersexperienced, but by crying I began to understand.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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