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My Friend, a Hero

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What is a hero? To me, a hero is someone who can overcome something even when all odds are against you. A hero is someone who helps others and can always be counted on when something is not right. They also travel on long journeys to foreign lands and have many struggles to do the right thing. My friend, Katie* is just like that. Her life has been tough and difficult, even though she is only fourteen years old.

I met Katie at the Cleveland International Airport over the summer. We were in matching maroon polo’s and we were both excited for what we knew would be a trip of a lifetime. We were going to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales with a student ambassador group called People to People. We would be gone for twenty days, doing things that many people do not get to do ever in their lifetime. Our group from Indiana had twenty-nine people, and we were all in the same age group. We had all met with everyone at least a few times with the meetings we had every month, but this was our first time meeting with the group from Ohio, which only had fifteen people. Because we did not know everyone, and we had to at least know everyone’s name by the time the plane landed, my friend Haily and I went around introducing ourselves to the Ohio group.

Katie and I became really good friends around the third day of the trip, when we were spending the night at Warwick Castle. She was only thirteen, and she was always fun to be around, even though sometimes she was a little crazy. We never got to room with each other, except for that night at Warwick when we spent the night in tents. Also in that tent were our four other good friends, Haily, Denise, Liz, and Sophi.

One night on the trip, a few days later, Katie got a phone call from her parents. They had gone to Puerto Rico, and they wanted her to leave the trip early so that she would be home when they got home. Her parents wanted her there so that she would be able to take care of them, since according to Katie, her parents could not even make cereal. Sophi and I were shocked. What kind of parents would make their kid leave a once in a lifetime trip that cost over six thousand dollars? We then learned a lot more about Katie’s family.

Katie has two older sisters and one younger brother. To everyone in their neighborhood, they seemed like a perfect family. Katie was the rebel, though, and her parents criticized her harshly for it. Her parents loved their other children, while they tended to neglect Katie sometimes. She had to cook for her family, and buy the food with her own money. She also paid for her clothes and anything else she wanted. Even though she was thirteen, she was juggling three jobs, school, and swimming.

Another few days went past before her parents called again. This time her mother and father told her that they did not care for her or lover her at all. Katie had known this, but she had hoped that maybe she was wrong. There was nothing she could do about it though, since we were three thousand miles away from home. I started crying for her and for what she had to deal with, and Sophi was just speechless. Katie just sat there, and would not talk to anyone except for me and Sophi, who were the only ones who knew about it.

Katie was zoned out and a little depressed for the next few days. Her parents kept calling her every night to tell her how much they did not love her and did not care for her. Her father read to her the children’s book How Much I Love You, but he switched around the words so he was saying how much he and her mother did not care for her. Her parents did not think this would affect Katie at all. Doctors are not sure why, but for some reason ever since she was in second grade, Katie was unable to physically cry. The doctors tried stabbing her tear ducts, and did other experiments, but the tears would not form. Because of this condition, her parents thought she was different, and they thought that she could not be emotionally or physically hurt. This made Katie make up her mind a long time ago that she was going to move out as soon as she could.

For about five years, Katie saved up as much money as she could. She had a deal with her mom that if Katie took care of her parents until she was sixteen, her mom would sign a form that would legally emancipate her. With the help of her three jobs, Katie saved up around three thousand dollars. The trip set her back though. “My parents said that I had to pay for the trip with my own money, and they wouldn’t drive me to the airport the day I was going to leave. They didn’t understand why I wanted to go on the trip. They thought I should be happy here in America, and that I was being ungrateful.” One of the times her parents called, they were in Puerto Rico again. They had taken all of the money Katie saved up, and they spent it on the vacation to Puerto Rico, and alcohol and drugs.

Katie was crushed. Five years of hard work was now wasted because of her parents. After a few days, she tried to look at the bright side of things. “Well, since my parents took all of my money, I can’t pay for a ticket to go home early,” she said with a sad laugh. But after a few days, things started to get a little better. We were on the ferry to Ireland, when her mom called again. She started telling Katie that she did not love her, and started calling her derogatory names, but this time Katie stood up for herself. She told her mom that she was drunk and that she needed to go back to bed and to stop calling.

For the next few days, neither of her parents called, and she was back to the person I knew at the beginning of the trip. We were having fun again, and we temporarily forgot about her parents. We were having an interesting time on the ferry back to Wales, when her father called again, but this time he called from jail. He had gotten arrested, and neither he nor the police officer would tell her what he had done to get himself arrested. Her mom was not going to pay the bail, so Katie had to somehow come up with a way to make five thousand dollars. It was going to be really hard, since her parents had taken all of her money. The officer gave her a few numbers to call to try to get another job or two, and a loan if she needed it. She called the numbers and got an additional two jobs. The officer tried to get her to get some more jobs, but she could not do it, since she was only thirteen and she had to go to school. We later found out that the bail was eventually paid for, and that her dad was out of jail.

Now hardly a day goes by without Katie and me either texting, emailing, or calling each other. She quit all of her jobs, and she is still swimming. She said that her parents told her that they were now going to stay and try to be better people. They had decided to give up the drugs and the excessive drinking, but the last I have heard from Katie about it was that they were struggling with it. Katie is my hero for many reasons. She has to come home everyday to a family that does not care whether she lives or dies. She has to overcome the physical and emotional scars that her parents have left on her. She still has to care for her parents and make sure they do not get into any more trouble. She has to do all of this, even though she just turned fourteen. Katie is my hero, because she posses a quiet strength and a motivation to keep her going as strong as she can every day. There is one thing she asked me over the summer that will always be in my memory. One day she asked me that if I could wish for one thing, what I would wish for. I do not really remember my response, but her answer still rings through my head: “I would wish for no more broken families.”





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