track tragedy- unnoticed and forgotten

Dear Editor, Principal, Coach and Reader, May 21, 2009

Today a tragedy occurred at the track meet in Ossining. This tragedy will not make the evening news in fact it will be lucky to make the editors column and all the more is the pity. Today a young man thought he was unseen. We look at all that is happening in society noticing events like the 10 year mark of Columbine and wonder how kids get to that point. I can tell you how: they believe they are unseen.

This young man ran one of the longer races at the meet. He fell behind fairly quickly and stayed behind, far behind. Did he stop? No. Did he slow down? No. He kept running- he worked until he finished. When he crossed that finish line, his coach stopped his watch and walked away. This child cooled down, waiting for his timer to come up to him and write his time on his card… and no one came. He walked around some, looking at coaches and adults- anyone who might have noticed that he FINISHED the race. No one came. No one saw. Tears began to roll down his cheeks, this young man on the verge of adult, trying not to cry, struggled, choking back the tears and kept looking and searching faces. Only when I came running to him did someone start asking and paying attention. He was ready to walk off the field, believing that he was so far behind no one had bothered to stay and see him finish, that his time mattered so little that he was forgotten. Forgotten.

Yes, he was timed and yes, at least 2 of us watched him finish, but he was heart-broken. He busted hump, kept on going, and kept on trying in front of a lot of people. He could have stopped. He could have given up. He didn’t. His parents raised a finisher. Someone should have cheered him for crossing that finish line. He should have been patted on the back for holding his head up in moments of adversity. He should have been celebrated for holding to an age old belief that it is not where you finish, but the fact that you do finish. But no one celebrated him and no one cheered him.

His courage to walk up to his coach and ask, “did you get my time coach?” is on the level of David and Goliath. In all of this, he overcame fear and asked for his time, knowing there was a chance that there was none. He kept going and he did not stop- no matter what. I don’t think I would have had that courage at that point.

After leaving his coach I caught up with him and he turned to me, silent tears still streamed down his cheeks. I will never forget that face. The cheeks of a child wet with sweat from effort and tears of unspoken sadness. The eyes of an innocent who felt the sting of being invisible- I believe for the first time. I do not know his name but he is a hero in my book today. What I said to him is not important and I am not saying I am a perfect mother; I fail to notice my own children at times. However, we need to start taking the time to notice the ones who work ten times as hard as the winners to even finish. We need to celebrate the everyday person who still puts in the effort and finishes- mostly unnoticed. Please, notice someone today and if you read this and you know this is your son, hug him. Then tell him that blonde lady who spoke to him will never forget that he kept going, that I saw him finish, that he is not invisible, and that he is a hero to me.

Julie Kelly
Proud mom of 4 Croton-Harmon students

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