Our Youth

Let Them Speak: How Much Does a Person’s History Affect Them?

Isabella’s family photos from when she was younger. (Photos: courtesy of Isabella Sirchia)

By Isabella Sirchia, Student Writer

History. Strange how much it truly impacts an identity, whether it be a nation or an individual. It’s a person’s kryptonite. Until it’s not— at least for some. A person’s history can either stay a memory in their mind or a story to the world, but both can reveal a great deal. One way will lead the person to acceptance and closure, while the other will lead them into a dark pit.

A little girl once lived in Lebanon, right outside of the animated city of Beirut. She never got to see the city in its true colors. In fact, she never got to see the city at all, never got to walk the cobblestone streets or taste the fresh fruit that restaurants hand out on the streets. She never experienced the fresh scents of Qashta effervescing through the cold, blue vents that open to the sky. The odors of fresh pita bread in bakeries. The smell of the best Lebanese food in town, Teta’s.

But she was too young to know what she missed. Her Beirut is silence, fear. She called her grandma. She could not sleep because she was worried. The pit in her stomach grew larger and larger each second. She told her parents of the monster living in her head. Reluctantly, the father kept a stern look, hiding his relief in their shared pain. Abdallah, the servant of God, was his name. He wanted to stay strong for his family, nay he needed to stay strong for his family. Her mother reacted as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

That night the little girl rocked herself to sleep, hoping her demons will slip away from her mind. Some nights, like these, were so silent one could hear the souls of the dead talking. Others were not so silent. The little girl in Beirut could have died during the war. She could have given up. She should have lost hope. There were too many ghosts to count. She woke up that restless night curled in a ball under her bed, with the rosary in her hand. Her family received a call– Teta Michele’s house was struck with a missile.

The next call was to inform her parents that Jean had showed up on his wife’s front door. Branded with the moon in bright colors, and engraved with the stars. Jean’s face was hidden because in the box next to his body lay his head. He drove on the wrong side of the road and had been missing for days. The next night was brighter than the rest as parades lasted until sunrise. Prayer was the little girl’s hope.

While prayer was an action of instinct, she knew there was a way out of this disaster in her world, her Beirut. Abdallah was driving home from work one night. It was oddly still, so he took cover under a parking garage for a few minutes. Voices in his head told him to leave with his family, never come back. He hopped out of his car and followed the voices. He abruptly halted in front of a huddled group of people who told him they were waiting in line for ship tickets to Cyprus.

Her mom, originally from Lebanon, met her dad while attending college at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

Waiting all night, he finally got to the front of the line; however, they had run out of tickets. He begged and begged. They finally agreed that he is to bring his family and not many items because they were sleeping on the deck. He bolted home in slow motion. He informed them that they will be going away and need to pack only one change of clothes. The next day they left home for good.

Some people hate their history. They refuse to accept it and people can let trauma overcome them in a way that all sight of reality is lost. The little girl and her family, they escaped Lebanon with few scars. I would like to say that their history led them to where they are today. While their ending was happy, they could have changed their fate. Many options were laid out in front of them. And the path that they chose led them to the United States.

The not so little girl still rocks herself to sleep every now and then, but that is what makes her who she is. Her older sister still whimpers at night. Her baby brother lives on the frame between imagination and reality. Their demons still haunt them, but their history, their stories made them who they are.

The little girl went from Coco to Nicole. Once she moved from Lebanon, she built a life in the United States. If the war were nonexistent and did not force her family to move, she would have never gone to Stony Brook University. She would have never been tackled on a football field by a boy. She would have never fallen in love with her college boyfriend. She would not have two loving daughters. Had this strong, wise, warm-hearted woman not moved to the U.S., her identity would be different.

This woman, my mom, shared her story of Beirut with us. I see stories are never ending. Memories become stories that shape not only the person’s identity but their children’s. My mom’s story did not just impact her, but it also impacted my sister and I. As I sit here writing about my mother’s story, you must be wondering: Why? What does this have to do with me? Because of my mom I’m here, her story has not ended yet. But she has given me the opportunity to begin mine.

Sirchia is a senior at Somers H.S. Her father is an alumnus at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows