Living History Lessons

Last Wednesday I spoke at a middle school in Montville, New Jersey. Various other speakers presented, as well, all of them describing apersonal tragedy that they had overcome. The day featured Holocaust, 9-11, columbine, Katrina, and other survivors, for instance.
One speaker told of being in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater during the shooting. He had been bicycling across the United States with a friend and ended up at the Batman movie. He was wounded in the face, neck, and arm, but survived without very serious damage. Now he works for Mayor Bloomberg, fighting for gun control.
The 12 and 13-year-old students in the audience asked him if he had PTSD. The young man said that he does react with more vigilance, scanning a subway train, for example, to be sure there is no gunman. He doesn’t think he suffers PTSD, but he does tune in more to his surroundings, to be aware of dangers.
One student asked if it changed his outlook on humanity. He said, “No.” He felt that there is so much goodness inhuman beings. He and his bicycling friend “couch surfed,” i.e., went on a website looking for people offering their couches or front yards for travelers to camp out on. From Virginia Beach to Colorado, the two friends camped overnight in strangers’ homes or yards. The experience was completely positive, although the young man did acknowledge that it had its risks.
I also met an 18-year-old legally-blind young man who was a wrestler. He had won 122 of his matches and lost only 19. He wrestled only sighted opponents. In June he plans to be part of a team of 10 teenagers, 5 blind and 5 sighted, climbing Machu Picchu in Peru.
The entire day proved to be inspirational, not just to the middle school students, but to the teachers and speakers as well.

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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