ONE OUT OF THE CROWD

by Emily Forst, age 13

"Emily, please pass the rice." That would be dad, parental guardian/fellow tree-hugger. I have been a tree-hugger since birth, vegetarian since fourth grade and dad? Well he got better with age. It was warm in the kitchen of our humble Wisconsin home, and our borderline functional family was sitting at the dinner table ingesting mom's latest
god-awful creation.

"Emily, the rice, ya know that white sticky stuff that you can eat." That's Danny, annoyingus siblingus, my brother, incurable Sega addict and soft-drink inhaler.

Mom was just clearing some of the dishes when I plucked dad from his seat, threw on a jacket, and shoved him in the front seat of his kick-it-and-it-works Nissan. It was cold, Autumn on the brink of winter, those bleak gray days where the clouds engulf the sun and the world is going crazy its morbid solemnity.

I was twelve; young and disillusioned like most of America's youth, except I had a gift to give to the world, not just an angst to take something away. And it was why dad's foot was so ardently on the gas pedal.

I was going to the Crandon Mine Moratorium. To show support in those that didn't want Exxon to create a sulfuric acid mine in one of the most beautiful, pristine environments in Wisconsin.

When we got there (after about a billion and two wrong turns and red lights) we were ushered in by people with big No Mine signs, to a row in the middle. The room was huge. People in black suits and ties decked the stand at the front. A microphone was placed at the end of a long white isle in between the two large sections of folding chairs. The whole room was white. The linoleum reflected the light emitted by the huge lights on the ceiling and my eyes hurt 'cause it was so darn bright. A few rows ahead I spotted my friend Michelle and her friend, um, what's his name. They are both really cool and support the things I do.

The speeches and testimonies and pleas dragged on until the guy who was reading the list blared over the main microphone "Is there anyone else that wishes to voice something about this present topic?" (or something like that). Michelle nudged me. Dad said don't ramble, and I raised my hand from out in the audience as the youngest one there by far.

The hand of the speaker motioned me to come forward. To me, the scene resembled Moses parting the seas of folding chairs till the white linoleum tile spread out for my summoned steps to tread upon; except instead of walking to freedom I was walking into ambiguity. With one trembling foot after another I gathered myself together, and walked out onto the main isle. There was no turning back. My heart was beating so fervently against my chest that I was afraid it would fly out, my hands became numb and non-operational, and the room started spinning. I felt like I was walking a thread of wire and if I made a wrong step I would fall off into the abyss. If I said the wrong things the bill could be lost, the mine open and I'd later have to face dad's eyes filled with secret
disappointment.

Then with a thud I was a the podium, with a panel of senators and governors and representatives with stiff tired faces staring into there coffee cups, looking at their watches, shuffling through papers and what not.

"Please tell us your name and age," the man at the podium questioned. The microphone was too high so I stood on my tip-toes and leaned over. "Emily Forst. I'm twelve." The words were released, not spoken, as if some invisible force whacked me in the back and they flew out. At the mention of the word twelve, some of the members on the board looked up, startled, surprised, and a little dazzled.

I felt the crowd's eyes upon me, as if somehow my voice was one that mattered because for all those hours they had heard from everyone else except from the generation which the mine will effect. I dug up all my courage and continued. More faces looked up. I used all my eloquence and all my strength to make my words as strong and convincing as I could till my tiny heart almost burst and my mind sprouted wings and flew off. It seemed I was talking for lifetimes, the bare echo of my voice though the microphone bouncing off the walls and unlocking the minds of several generations that were still blind.

When I ended, the room exploded with thunderous applause, and I shook and the podium shook and the people outfitted all in black shook. And Michelle and her friend and dad and lots of people I had never met before but wanted to know came up and hugged me and congratulated me and I cried and dad cried and the people's eyes became wet. I looked up at dad who was exploding with pride and I felt so warm, like I could heat New York and we walked out of the two doors in the back, held back by a person who I didn't
know but knew my name.

The parking lot was dark and cold but I was immune to reality. All there was in the world was tremendous hope and all my dreams seemed tangible. I was so lightheaded that dad had to steer me to where the car was parked or else I probably wouldn't have made it home. On the way home my head gradually decreased in size, the city lights were on, and we were the only ones on the road. I kept beaming though, beaming that I did it
despite skepticism, despite fear, despite all the odds, I may have saved some land that I've never seen, miles from where I live.

I learned something then. I learned that even though you might think that what you do is insignificant, you're the only one who can do it, there, then, that way, because there's only one of you. Only one unique you in all the world and all time. And being a teen you're told that your dreams are crap and your hope is dirt and most of the time you feel small and insignificant, but you're not. So dig up everything you have and live as you know you have to. And let me tell ya something, anything is possible if you have the guts to make it real.


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