Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Freaky Coincidence

8th Graders Doing the Wave!
We drove over 8 hours to get to a middle school that was supposed to be only 4.5 hours away.

That constipated beast, Los Angeles, was in our way.

It was dark (and late) when we finally rolled up to what the GPS told us was the location of our hotel room.

As fatigue would have it, it turned out not to be our hotel room. It was, instead some swanky villa estates. But we couldn't tell for sure that we weren't in the right place because...well, did I mention it was dark? And late? And that we'd been driving 9 hours?

I flagged down a security guard at the swanky villa estates and was given directions. They involved going out the way we'd come, turning right, and right, and right again.

No, we couldn't shortcut, or believe me, we would have pulled a Sammy Keyes.

After three rights we almost blasted past the hotel entrance because it was dark. And late. And we'd been driving for 10 hours. Did I mention that?

Sure I did.

And in case you're wondering, the dark part is true. I don't know whether this desert town's residents are into the green aspect of starry night lighting, but the roadways were just...dim.

And, seeing how it was late and we'd been driving for 11 hours, I'm sure we were a bit dim ourselves.

The hotel room may not have been inside a swanky villa estate, but it still turned out to be way too much luxury for two weary travelers. Unfortunately, the restaurant was already closed.

Luckily, the PTO prez had left a gift bag for us


Which was a good thing because there's no way we wanted to venture out for dinner and we were famished. It was late. And dark. And we'd been traveling for 12 hours!

Sorry. My intention was not to go on and on for hours about the trip. The traveling to do school visits is always the hard part. And I shouldn't complain. At least Mark was with me this time!

No, my intention was to tell you about a freaky coincidence.

This middle school in the starry night desert booked me almost a year ago. They have Swear to Howdy as part of their core curriculum. I will just come out and say that I am an instant fan of any school that has STH as part of their curriculum. Not because it's my book specifically, but because of all my books it's the one that takes courage to adopt. It's meant to be a discussion book. It serves its purpose well, and in the process has been known to make a certain type of educator uncomfortable.

So knowing that this school loved and taught and discussed Swear to Howdy, made the 13 hour drive seem worthwhile. A frog stranglin' rain couldn't have kept me away.

Anyway, sorry. Right. My intention was also not to talk about STH. My intention was, as I said before, to tell you about a freak coincidence.

In anticipation of my coming to visit, the school encouraged kids to also read Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, or Flipped, or The Running Dream.

A lot of teachers read The Running Dream.

The freaky coincidence? Last week, the elementary school adjacent to this middle school was struck by tragedy. An elderly man hit the gas instead of the brake and rammed his car through the fence and into a metal box of some sort, causing metal parts to go flying onto the playground. One boy's leg was so badly injured by flying metal parts that doctors wound up amputating his leg below the knee. "It's the same leg as [TRD's main character] Jessica," the vice principal told me.

He also told me that in the one week between the accident and my arrival, the schools had already done bake sales and raised $12,000 dollars.

In a very odd way, it felt like my book had come to life. For the boy's sake I would erase every page if it meant what had happened to him could also be erased, but that's not possible, so the goal's got to be to get him, like Jessica, to a new starting line.

After my presentation--which contains slides of an amputee putting on his prosthetic leg--I asked the students to include the boy when he attends their middle school next year, and I think they will. It's a really good school, with a brave staff. I think maybe I'll go back someday.

Even if it's a 14 hour drive to get there.


Gabrielle said...

Wow! That's a LONG drive! That is a freaky coincidence! I hope those kids took your advice and involves and treats him like everybody else.
I hope everybody has a great week! :D


Yusa said...

Yeah traveling is very exhausting. I do feel like STH and TRD have very in depth meanings. So does Sammy Keyes of course but that has a core of adventure while the other two have a more serious aspect to them that can definitely be used in school curriculum since there is so much to analyze in them.
Wow that is a coincidence. I think you were sent to that area for a reason. It's so saddening when something like that happens. I hope he reads the running dream and gets strength out of it. That fundraiser was so sweet and I can only wish the best for him.


Kylie said...

I was cracking up every time you mentioned how long it took you. I could just hear your irritation every time I read it.

That is a big coincidence. It is such a sad story. And especially for such a young kid to lose his leg. I am such that when he gets older he will read running dream and be able to relate to it.

I remember when I read Running Dream and she talked about how hard it was pushing the wheelchair. I figured it was hard because she had a prosthetic leg, but over the past few weeks I am learned just how hard it is. I have a class where I work with handicapped kids during their P.E. and everyday after class is over I have to push one girl up to the cafeteria. And my campus is not flat, at all. Everyday I am huffin and puffin pushing her up the hill. All I can think about is how much more respect I have Jessica and what she did. I don't think I could push someone for as long as she did. Especially up multiple hills.

Have a great week everyone'


Azhar said...

My dad once took us all on a 12 hour car ride... it was VERY tiring. I mean, I didn't really do anything except bicker with my brothers throughout the whole ride, haha :). The schools were so generous raising up that much money for the little boy and super nice! Someday he's gonna read the Running Dream and know that he's not alone.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Jessica said...

What a scary thing to happen right at the school. That poor boy. Hopefully "The Running Dream" helped teach his future teachers and schoolmates how to see him and not his disability.

AbaGayleb said...

When I travel to Michigan from Alabama with my family, it is only supposed to be a 10 hour car ride, but when you're toting around 6 different people with six different size bladders, well it's going to be a lot ride. Adding on an extra 2 hours. It's horrible. I understand your pain.
Have a lovely week! ♥

Gabrielle said...

Next Friday I'm heading to Texas for Thanksgiving to see my best friend (who loves SK, by the way.)
And my family and I are going by car, not stopping, and it will be like, a whole day in the car. I like roadtrips, they're fun, but that is a LONG time.


Isabel said...

Okay, so I know really well that travelling is crazy exhausting. Especially when my dad is the traveling type. The longest I've been in a car drive is meh...9 to 11 hours. And the longest plane ride?!?!? That's 15 hours! Talk abut being driven crazy! But I love travelling, too, it comes naturally, I was only 6 days when I started travelling, after all.
And yes, STH and TRD have whole lot of depth, so I feel that those are good books to have in a school curriculum.
Also, that is what I call a true coincidence! I feel so...heartbroken when tragedies like this happen. And I think it's really sad that the boy had to go through that, I hope he loved TRD an gets inspired. May that boy stay strong. <3
Also, I got my friend to read TRD, and she says its one of the best books she has ever read!
Oh, and that fundraiser? Amazing!!


Unknown said...

Swear to Howdy is honestly my favorite book. Even more than Sammy Keyes, which is shocking because i've been reading those books for ages. The thing I like about Swear to Howdy is that it gives a clear image of all the emotions humans have. It makes you laugh, cry, it makes you angry. But when you're finished with it, you just set it down on the table and sit and think about what an experience it was. I remember when I first started reading it in sixth grade, I laughed out loud during silent reading time and got kicked out of class. But honestly, I didn't really care because I got to read it the rest of the day!
- Cam <3