Orphan Survival Stories Index |
WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
"Oh say can you see," sang the young girl standing on the small stage at the Glynn County Fairgrounds. I removed my hat and placed it over my heart, until she finished singing The Star Spangled Banner.
I lowered my head and accepted the bronze medallion that I was receiving. The large crowd of 300 to 400 began to slowly shuffle forward as the music started to play and the ceremony began. I followed along, most of the time looking down at the ground. Once in a while, I would look up and see the faces of thousands, upon thousands of people lining the mile-long, oval shaped track that we were starting to walk.
Suddenly everything became quiet (to me) as if I was someplace else and everything appeared to move in a slow and hazy motion. The 5,000 to 6,000 people watching us began clapping and waving their hands. Thousands cheered at the top of their voices for all of us who wore the "bronze medallions."
As we slowly walked past them, I raised my eyes from the ground and looked directly into their faces. Their hands stretched outward toward us as if they wanted to hug us. I looked back at the ground and silently wondered if any of those people knew how we 'really felt' inside. I wondered why they really cared about us - one way or the other.
But still they continued to cheer on and on as hundreds of red, white and black balloons were released into the heavens, and the bagpipes reverently played at the front of the procession. It was as if we had all become champions of something special and now being cheered on by thousands of Romans, who lined the streets of Rome.
From out of nowhere came a wonderful, overpowering feeling I cannot describe in written words. It was something I have never known as a human being. My jaw began to quiver and my eyes began to water. The crowd continued to yell and cheer as loud as they could. Now and then, I looked up into the eyes of the massive crowd and saw thousands of white, black, brown and yellow smiling faces. Smile after smile. Clap after clap. Cheer after cheer. It seemed as if it would never end.
Twelve thousand clapping hands and they were clapping more loudly than I ever heard in my entire lifetime. There were smiles, laughter and sounds of joy like I have never known. I felt as if we had just given the performance of our lives and for some strange reason were being congratulated for a job well done.
For 25 minutes, we walked before we reached the end of the mile-long track. Still the crowd kept cheering and clapping and they would not stop. By then, I could take no more. The tears began to stream down my cheeks and I felt so proud. I looked to my right and smiled, just a little smile, at the young 6-year-old girl who had no hair. I looked to my left into the face of my friend, Sharen, who less than a year ago had her breast removed. I cried when I thought back to the time I was told that I had cancer and had less than six months to live.
Once again, I looked up into the cheering faces and I closed my eyes to force out the remaining tears. I just stood there silently listening to the thousands upon thousands of clapping hands cheering us on. A feeling came back to me that I had long forgotten. That wonderful, wonderful feeling I felt inside the day I walked out of the hospital, felt the warm sun on my face, the sound of birds singing and the feeling of life itself.
The 21,416 candles in white and gold paper bags that lined the track were now all lit and glowing in the darkness. They were burning as a memorial to those of us who survived, as well as those who were not able to be there to walk the American Cancer Societies "Relay For Life" with all of us. "The survivors of cancer."