We continue this month’s series with more writings by young people from Central Islip High School who crossed the border by themselves. They worked with the gentle guidance of Herstory’s bilingual facilitator Helen Dorado Alessi, adding reflections and scenes here and there to expand their narratives week after week. The following two stories help us understand that leaving wasn’t a choice for so many. We invite readers to leave a comment below to offer inspiration to our young writers. If you’d like to know more about Herstory, click here.
Story Three: I Had to Do It
My childhood was the best time of my life because I spent unforgettable moments with my family. The most beautiful of all is that I have wonderful grandparents, and that even though one of them is no longer with me, I know he takes care of me from heaven.
When I was 15 years old, I decided to come to the United States, because of the problems in my country and because I wished to have a better life. On the way, I suffered a lot. I never imagined it would be so hard. I walked a lot, almost didn’t eat, and suffered cold. I slept in the mountains, drank water from a puddle, which disgusted me, but if I wanted to quench my thirst, I had to do it. The only thing that gave me strength was the thought that soon I’d be with my mother. It had been 12 years of not seeing her and not being able to give her a hug.
But once I crossed, I had to turn myself in to the border patrol. Thank God, there they took care of me, gave me food. Later, in a shelter, I made many friends. That’s where they gave me the news that they were going to send me to where my mother was. Excitedly, I simply thanked God.
When I first arrived here, I felt lonely because I missed my grandparents, and I wasn’t accustomed to living in another country. Sometimes I would feel sad because I couldn’t communicate with other people. They would talk to me, but I couldn’t t understand them.
When I first arrived, everything was calm. A month after my arrival, my stepfather, my mother’s husband, began to act differently, in a way that I did not like. When I began school, he started to tell me that his children with my mom were better than me because they were American and could speak English. He also told my mom that I did not love her, that I was a bad daughter, and that she should just send me to a shelter. There were times when he threatened me.
This made me very sad. My classmates would ask me what was wrong because they would see me cry, and sometimes I wouldn’t eat a thing. I felt an immense sadness in my chest knowing I had suffered so much just to get to this country, only to have to endure the shouts and insults from my stepfather and fights with my mother. I endured all of this with a lot of pain.
Within a year, I received the hardest news of my life. My grandfather, the person whom I’d lived with my entire childhood, had passed away. For me, he was not simply my grandfather, he was a father.
I felt my soul fade bit by bit.
Story Four: Son, And What If I Don’t See You Again?
I learned that a stumble is not a fall.
That everything in life comes back.
That no bad comes without good.
That with will and effort, everything is easier.
That the most valuable thing in the world is your family and true friends.
That you do not cry for someone who does not appreciate you.
That no matter how hard the stumble, fall or obstacle that gets in your way, the objective is to lift your head and keep going.
Your world is your dream.
I am [removed to preserve anonymity], one more immigrant in this great nation. Do you want to know my story? Okay, I’ll tell you.
My mother was pregnant with me, four months along, and my older sister was 1 year old. My mother found herself at home and my father working. That day, my father’s boss said to him, “Go home to your wife and daughter,” to which my father, cheerful, replied with a “yes.”
At that moment, a truck with coffee cargo was about to leave, and my father decided to take that truck back home. When the truck was close to where my father lived, my father hit the truck’s side to signal the driver to stop. My father fell and hit his head hard on a wall after the driver, who was speeding, abruptly hit the brakes.
The driver got out of the truck and quickly called an ambulance. My father was unconscious.
The ambulance quickly took him to the hospital in the capital. He gave no sign of recovery. My father fell into a coma, breathing only through a machine they’ve connected him to.
Almost a month goes by and he was still in a coma. It was a great hardship for my mom and grandmother, my dad’s mom.
A month after the accident, he reacted. He woke from the coma, but sadly, his heart was failing, and he had to remain connected to a machine to help him breathe.
In the beginning, he didn’t speak. He didn’t know anybody. He was somewhat crazy.
He stayed hospitalized for three months, to see if he’d improve, but he didn’t, he was in the same state as he was when he first woke up from the coma. It was so hard for my mom and my grandma to see him like that. They were devastated.
After three months, he was discharged. My mom decided to take him to my grandma’s house. My dad acted weird all the time because he didn’t recognize anyone. My mom and my grandma showed him photographs to help him remember, but nothing worked. He didn’t even want to be with them because he didn’t recognize them.
They, then, took him to a psychiatrist. They took him three times a week. The doctor showed him pictures of my mom and sister, just like my mom and grandma did, but all my dad did was laugh. After a month of therapy, he started to show improvement; by the second month, much more; and, after four months of therapy, he was fully recovered. He could finally remember everything, thank God.
On the morning of May 3, 2000, my mom began to feel contractions. She was about to give birth to this young man who is now writing and reading this story. She is taken to the hospital right away because she couldn’t take the pain any longer.
At 2:45, this boy was born. And now, as old as I am, I am really happy that my father was the first person to hold me in his arms. The man, whom without God’s help, I never would have met. He was very happy with me, he had always wanted a son, and now, he finally had one. He wanted to name me after him, Julio. Every year, on his birthday, I thank God for allowing me to have met my father, whom I love with all my life and miss very much.
September 18, 2005: A date I will never forget. That was the saddest day in my life; my aunt told my mother that she, my mom, and I would be traveling to the United States. My dream had never been to come to the United States. I was fine in my country, and I didn’t want to move away from my family.
The day before, September 17, 2005, my mother says to me, “Son, your aunt called to say that you and I are leaving tomorrow.” I was in shock. All I could think was what could happen. I don’t want to go, but I also didn’t want my mom traveling alone. I said, “Okay, mom. Let it all be for a better life for my dad and sisters.”
I went to see my dad to tell him that I was leaving for the United States. He got really sad and with tears in his eyes said to me, “My boy, I love you, I don’t want you to leave my side. You are my only son, and I don’t want you to go.”
With tears in my eyes, I said to him, “Dad, I love you, but I have no choice but to leave with mom, to give you and my sisters a better life.” He replied, “Son, and what if I don’t see you, again?”
I began to cry and didn’t say anything else, I just went home. I was really sad with the news about my traveling. I couldn’t sleep, just thinking about how I was coming to the United States.
The next morning, on the 18th, I went to say goodbye to my dad. I got there and found him very sad. With tears in his eyes, he said to me as soon as he saw me, “Son, I am going to miss you. You are taking a part of me with you. I hope to see you again someday. May God guide your way, son. I love you.”
I couldn’t say anything to him. The only thing I felt was a big knot form in my throat. Finally, I said, “Dad, I love you. Goodbye.”
It was very hard to leave my father and then go to say goodbye to my sisters. That was something very hard, for them and for me.
Translated from the original Spanish by Silvia Heredia