There have been many turning points in my life, but the most significant one was when I was eight years old. I was the normal kid, my biological parents were still together and I had a younger brother. My father was a policeman and my mom worked out of the home with Pampered Chef, a cooking company. We were the typical American family until October 5, 2000.
My dad worked third shift and my mom was off work that day so on October 4 we spent all day together. Ice-skating and hockey was a huge part of our lives, so naturally we decided to go to the new ice rink my grandma managed and had the whole place to ourselves. We skated for hours and then went out to dinner. After dinner we went back home so my brother and I could go to sleep early enough to go to school the next day and my dad could go work the third shift.
Around three o’clock in the morning on October 5 I woke up to a lot of commotion and police cars surrounding my house. I could hear my mom crying and people trying to calm her down, and as an eight-year-old girl I was scared and nervous to go downstairs and see what the problem was. Eventually, I got the courage to go down the stairs and was greeted by a nervous police officer that I had never seen before. Since I was so young I do not remember in great detail how the conversations went, but I do remember just being so frustrated because no one would tell me what was happening and why my mom was not present. The only details they would give me was that my dad was in a bad car accident. I was so young at the time that I truly could not comprehend that my world was going to be turned completely upside down.
It did not take long for my grandma to get to my house. I sat on my couch in the living room with her, my brother, and a few police officers for hours. Finally around eight in the morning my mom approached the living room with the police chaplain. At the time I had no idea who he was, but now he is a close family friend. Once they walked into the room, I was positive my dad would come in right behind them in a wheelchair. This was not the case. My mom was in so much pain she could not speak or comfort my brother and I, so the Chaplain had to do all the talking. After explaining the fact that my father did not make it through the accident I ran upstairs to my room to be alone. I was only eight years old, but by that time I knew enough about death that I was heartbroken and devastated. The accident happened because a semi-driver ran a stoplight. That is one thing that drives me crazy, the fact that it was so preventable.
The next week is a complete blur to me. My family is very well known in Fort Wayne, my hometown, so the amount of support we had was unbelievable. Not only that, but because my dad was a police officer, many people have had to deal with them at one point or another. The viewing lasted from eight in the morning until around midnight, with a constant line. Although I was so torn up about my father’s passing, I loved that I got to see literally every person that was in my life, plus making new relationships. My brother and I would run around outside in the cold October weather greeting and entertaining everyone that was waiting in line for hours.
Not only was the viewing full of people, the funeral has gone down in Fort Wayne’s history. It was noted that the funeral had the biggest attendance of any other funeral in Fort Wayne ever. The funeral was held at the biggest church in Fort Wayne at the time called Blackhawk Christian Church. It was completely full and many close friends and family got the chance to speak. The whole funeral process was so chaotic and such a hard time I have very little memory of it. I honestly believe that my conscience has blocked many of the details out of my memory.
I would do anything to have my father back, only if I even got the chance to say goodbye to him. I know that will never happen and it is a hard thing to live with, but I have become a stronger person by moving on with my life. A death in general can be a pivotal point in ones life, especially when you are an eight-year-old girl whose father passes away suddenly.
Even though the memories of the initial days of his passing are painful, I wish I could remember more because I want to preserve every last memory of my father as possible. Our time together was so short, but monumental in my life. Because of his passing, it has been my dream to be a youth counselor. I want to help children and young adults to be able to move past hardships in life and make a difference in someone’s life. Not only has this tragic accident showed me what my purpose is in life, but also it has connected me with so many amazing people. The other police survivors have been so influential on my life and I have even impacted other survivors’ families by helping them in their time of need. If this accident never occurred I cannot imagine what type of person I would be or where I would be going in life.
We are always in such a hurry, aren't we? We push, push, push all day long--moving from standard to standard--assessing where important. Sometimes I think we need to just slow down and let our students explore our content through a new lens.
We have been working hard on identifying "turning points" in our books so we really studying texts we have read and looking for these key events that dramatically impacted how a story unfolded. We have had some fantastic discussions and what COULD have happened in these book had these "turning points" not occurred. Historical fiction book clubs got back together the other day and discussed these key events in their texts. I then asked students to select one of the key events to do a VERY quick writing task on...their directions were simply to write a topic sentence that clearly stated the turning point of their book and then another one or two sentences to prove their "thesis". This is a gentle warm up for our upcoming unit on literary essay writing!
After students write their turning point and got it checked with me, I sent them back into their texts to reread the section and to really visualize what was happening. They then worked to create an illustration to match their mental picture...they looked for key words and phrases the author used to help "paint" a picture in the readers' minds--and they we painted our own versions of them!
Students then worked to type up their "turning point" writings...printed them...and we got ready to create a fantastic hallway display! Here are a few of my favorites!
The students absolutely loved the process-and in just one hour, we wrote, we read, we discussed, we drew, we painted...and all totally related to our language arts standards. We CAN continue to bring creativity and joy into our teaching!
Want to watch a Periscope video replay about this lesson? Click the image below!