Cesar

I found you

In the city where luck fakes abundance

where drinks are spilled,

And love prevails.

.

In a bin you sat amid others,

Of blues and yellows and greens.

Half my size with a purple horn and glittery feet,

I pulled you free of your plastic prison.

.

I begged and cried

And asked and whined.

Dad said I didn’t need another toy,

But mom only smiled.

.

“Name him Cesar,”

She said as she paid the clerk.

The building around us glittered in gold,

With a Gondola ride in the center.

.

Though Cesar’s palace we rode,

Gliding through the water below us.

I held you tight to my chest,

And imagined our future together.

.

Wandering through the next decade

We’d go through many escapades

Of magical castles

And evil wizards.

.

I’d take you everywhere,

To Canada, and Europe.

To Costa Rica,

And we’d ride through the deserts of Arizona.

.

One day our innocence and imagination,

Would get us into an unfortunate problem.

From years of playing,

You’d be pushed too far.

.

As you’d start to fray,

I’d scream and cry.

I’d do what I could,

And stitch you up.

.

With a new scar on your side,

It would be a constant reminder.

You are mine.

I am yours.

.

You’re my Cesar,

Forever in my heart.

Pap-pap

I’m only three, But I know who you are. 
You’re old smile’s contagious, Curved and beautiful.
I smiled and run toward to you, My tiny arms outstretched.
You hold me to your chest, And kiss my curly blonde head.
War has not treated you well, The Flying Tigers has made you frail, 
You’re body is melted, Old and tired with knobby rickety knees.
I climb up onto your lap, on the frog covered bed, 
You gently curve the corners of your mouth,
Not like you used to, but close enough.
You like the green color of my shirt And say how beautiful I am. 
You grab my hand And point to my mom
“Smile!” She says. A flash appears, and then it’s gone. 
The last time I saw you, captured.

Ice-Cream Holiday

A day at the beach like no other. Cassidy and Charlie spent their time building towering sandcastles as the scorching sun blanketed them it’s hot rays. What better a way to cool off than to get ice-cream at Khor Brothers? Cassidy, the older of the two sisters, is in the lead chomping down on her vanilla and orange swirl soft-serve in a yellow cone. She smiles in her knowing victory, pausing long enough for the sticky ice-cream to drip onto her fourth of July themed dolphin swim suit.

Meanwhile with the help of Grandma, Charlie a blonde little two year old, struggles to eat her orange and vanilla soft serve. As the orange sticky liquid drips over her pink plaid shorts, Grandma takes evasive action, grabbing a handful of napkins in order to avoid a larger sticky mess. She gasps in surprise as the mess continues with no end in sight. “Oh Charlie honey,” She exclaims with a laugh.

As others walked by with their sunbleached hair, and oversized sunglasses, they glance at the young children and smile. Their dogs on their anchor themed leashes tug to get to the ice-cream on the cement. It’s busy in Bethany. Tonight there will be fireworks. Everyone’s happy. What a fun Ice-cream Holiday.

A Child’s Mind

When you’re a child, everyone’s your friend. There are no politics, no terrorists. You smile at strangers, and sometimes run up and give random people high-fives. You don’t judge others by their looks, or their religious beliefs. Everyone’s your best friend. As a child, I loved playing with dolls: Barbie dolls, bratz dolls and polly pockets.

One specific doll was my favorite. Beautiful and unique it looked just like myself with long blonde hair, blue eyes, and a fair skin tone. The stomach area was soft cloth, and the arms, legs, and head hard plastic. When I was five or six, my mom decided to give that doll, her name was Crystal, a bath. Unfortunately there was an accident. She somehow made it to the dryer. Crystal came out looking like a Halloween ornament; Her stomach was shriveled, and most of the hair had burnt off. To my peers she was creepy, ugly and belonged in the trash. To me, she was the same doll I’d once loved.

Looking back on it, Crystal definitely belonged in a Halloween shop after her accident, even after my mom tried to clean her up. But as a child, I stilled played with her. She was deformed, but still beautiful. She was bald, but still stunning.

Today I still have that doll, in a box in the back of my closet. She was my favorite doll and is a part of my childhood. Easily enough, I could’ve refused the doll. I could’ve cried and screamed- thrown a fit. I could’ve tossed it and moved on with my life. But instead I kept her, played with her and cherished her. Today, she serves as reminder that we’re all a little different and who are we to judge? There’s something to learn from children.

Healing Wounds

It’s a cool early morning in Murrysville Pennsylvania. The grass is wet, though there wasno rain last night. The orange street lights cast an eerie glow over the busy parking lot. There’s a solemn presence in the air. Hesitancy and heaviness cause the silence of the students as they exit their cars and wander quietly into the warm glow of the red and white brick building.

Pulling my navy blue backpack out of the backseat of my parents red Cadillac SUV, I give my mom a light kiss on the cheek and slip out of the car, my feet hitting the black pavement with a light thump.

“It’ll be okay,” She says as I go to slam the car door. “Keep your head up.” I only give her a small smile to giver some comfort, and step back to watch her drive off to work, down the steep hill to route 22. As I join the hoard of students, I note the number of police cars parked out front.

Seven.

With a shake of my head I make my way up the red steps. It’s been three weeks since I’ve stepped inside. Three weeks, since the attack on my school. I take a deep breath and enter my high school for the first time since April eighth.

My eyes immediately land on a Golden Retriever, white in the face with sunken eyes. She sits in the middle of a semi circle of girls. Her name I will later find out, is Bailey, and she’s twelve years old. There are dogs everywhere. A Rottweiler wears a pink tutu.

Another dog sits onit’s owner’s lap. He’s tiny and has a beard. All of these animals are here to help heal, but they actually serve as a distraction. For weeks they will walk the halls, interrupt classes, and try their best to make students smile.

This is my first day back in almost a month, after a student decided to walk through the science wing of my high school and stab twenty one of my fellow classmates. It’s taken weeks to clean up all of the blood. Some of it was left stuck in a large crack in the floor, between the band room and the hallway. Franklin decided to place a blue slab over the crack. While it hides the blood, it will forever be a reminder as I walk through that hall.

My locker’s on the second floor, above the science wing. Every few seconds I glance over my shoulder as I’d done all semester, to watch for some kind of threat. I’d had this growing suspition that something would happen. Throughout the country, students were going into class- rooms and gunning down students. Why I had a feeling it would happen at Franklin I have no clue. Murrysville’s quiet. Nothing happens here. But there’d been a gut feeling since the first day, that compelled me to look over my shoulder.

Guns make noise, but knives are silent. It isn’t until you’ve already been hit that you realize you’ve been hurt.

In the lunchroom the blue and gold “FR Strong” banner I’d signed a week ago at a sup- port rally hangs on back wall. At lunch with my best friend, I can’t help but stare at the large do- nated reminder. Rita’s Ice is given out as a gift from the Italian Ice company as we pile out of the cafeteria. As we file out of the double doors into the hallway where tragedy struck, I pick out my favorite flavor of ice.

I choose mango.

My last class for the day is Chemistry. I stare at the bleached tables. The room had to be sanitized as hurt students were dragged inside to wait for paramedics. I occasionally glance at my friend’s empty seat beside my own. He’s in the hospital fighting for his life. He ends up losing a kidney and part of his liver. But he lives.Thank God no one died.


Part of me regrets skipping school that day. Pretending to be sick, I convinced my mom to keep me home from school. I had the day planned. TV. However a call from my neighbor on the Westmorland Transit bus heading downtown changed that plan.“Thank God you’re home Jenna.” I heard. It was followed by, “Ambulances,” “Police cars,” “barricades,” and my favorite, “turn on the news.”For hours I could do nothing but stare at the television as news reporters gave premature injury counts. Stuck glued in my chair at the kitchen island, I’d listen as they struggled to get new information. Frantically I called everyone I could. In the distance, I could see the Life-Flight helicopters coming and going, as well at WTAE’s own news chopper as they circled my school. In the coming weeks, I’d grow used to the sound of helicopters in my once quiet neighborhood.It’s the worst feeling in the world, knowing your home’s been attacked, and you can do nothing to stop it.


Franklin Regional’s my second home. While I hate waking up at the crack of dawn, the large building is familiar to me and safe.

It used to be safe.

Clear backpacks are handed out after the incident. We aren’t allowed to carry solid bags anymore. Neighboring businesses send us free stuff. It’s meant to show sympathy, but it’s just another uncomfortable reminder. For fire drills, our principal doesn’t allow the fire department to set off the alarm. He gives us three warnings then asks us to head outside to avoid triggering stu- dents who’ve developed PTSD.

Alex Hribal’s face is plastered over my Facebook newsfeed for years. He tries to plead insanity. He gets tried as an adult. It isn’t until 2018 that it will end. He’ll be sentenced to sixty years in prison for twenty one counts of attempted homicide. Over time wounds will heal, emo- tional and physical, but pain from that day will never be completely gone.