My name is Larissa Kosmos. I'm 28. I'm blessed with good health and solid friends. The Washington National Cathedral grounds make up my front yard. I've peered into the Grand Canyon, gone swimming in the Mediterranean and eaten homemade raspberry preserves at my great-aunt's kitchen table in Slovakia. I have grandparents who dote on me and selfless parents whom I also consider friends. Last June, in a rowboat on the lake in Central Park, the man I love asked me to marry him. Sometimes I daydream about winning the lottery, but then I remind myself that I already have.
My name is Catherine Muema. I live in Silver Spring. I am an administrative assistant but have acquired a new title, "caregiver-housekeeper." I came to the land of plenty with hope and faith, leaving my husband and two children in Kenya. I scrub floors, launder, cook and clean to support them. Every time I call home, my 6-year-old asks when he will come. I cannot answer. I have nothing. I cry in a lonely borrowed bed every night. With hope and faith I pray for the answer. When it comes it will be the best day of my life.
My name is David Shayt. As a museum specialist at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, I have added to the national collections 91 packs of Crayola crayons, two electric barber poles, 44 shoe store foot-measuring devices, a Playboy bunny outfit, 46 eggs of Silly Putty, two McDonald's french fries scoops (left- and right-handed), 40 packs of cigarettes, nine cue sticks, 135 walking sticks, and a bullwhip used by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. I still seek one of those swiveling, octagonal oak cabinets whose triangular drawers once held screws and bolts in hardware stores.
My name is Victor Haas. I am 75 and live in Kensington. Dad was born in Vienna, Austria, Mother in Brooklyn. Dad was a concert pianist. He planted fruit trees, berry bushes and grapevines on our meager one-acre lot on Long Island. Mother's motto was "Can all you can eat and eat all you can." We recently broke open a jar of Mother's old Bartlett pear preserves and it was as delicious as the day she canned them, which was a few days before she died in 1981.
My name is Catherine Kabadian. Years of abuse could not break me. Years of neglect and negativity could not poison me. You, Mommy dearest, abandoned me when I was only 12 -- thrown to the wolves and made to fight this battle alone. Ten years later I am happy to report that I love life. Your cruelty has only given me the ambition and rationale to strive farther than the eye can see. Thanks for not caring. I will make it.
My name is Elizabeth Lee. I was a first- and second-grade teacher for 26 years before retiring in 1990. Sometimes when people ask me why I enjoyed teaching so much, I tell them about the three best questions my 6- and 7-year-olds asked me during my career: (1) Why do people argue about money so much? (2) Where do bees go in the winter? and: (3) Where did we get the first seed? Teaching. My choice. No regrets.
My name is Deanna Shoob. I was born in 1939. My mother would take me downtown on the trolley for a lettuce-and-tomato sandwich at the lunch counter of Peoples Drug Store. When I was 27 and about to get married, my mother told me I could use rubber bands to avoid getting pregnant. I think she meant condoms. Life was a hoot then. Now I tell my adult children I'd love them to get rich and build me a guest home so I could live, rent-free, in exchange for being the very best Jewish bubbe, and they laugh. They think I am being funny.
My name is Kaitlin Bishop. I am 10 years old and if there was one moment in my life that felt great, it was the time I saved my little sister Karleigh's life. It happened when I was 2. I was begging to go see my baby sister, and finally my mom said okay. I went upstairs and went to my sister's cradle and peeked in. I screamed because my sister's face was blue. My mom came rushing upstairs and called the hospital. Good save!
My name is Robert T. Balder. My degree is in English, but I work as a computer consultant. I do not understand the technology well enough to be among those who are advancing it, but I know it better than those who are using it. It is easy to make a living this way. When I was born 30 years ago, this niche did not exist; computers were used only by experts. It won't exist 30 years from now, when computers will themselves be the experts. By then I will wear the protective armor of upper management or, having retired, finally write novels.
My name is Aimee Cho. I am 4. I am very excited because my mom is going to have a baby. I am going to have a sister. Her birthday will be in January. I want to be her best friend.
My name is Dexter Manley. How does it feel to be on top of the world -- the very top -- and then fall to the bottom? Once I was an all-pro defensive end for the Washington Redskins, administering pain to others while I, secretly, was in the greatest pain of all. I couldn't read or write. I couldn't control an addiction to crack. I lost everything -- money and family both -- and then chose prison over rehab, to save my life. Now I work hard and happily as a paralegal and investigator for a law firm. Use your pain. It can be a great teacher.
Ann Petri here, raised on a dairy farm, married Bill, a rocket scientist (really!), and settled at McLean Gardens in 1952. Michelle, our rheumatologist, arrived 1953; Billy, our infectious-disease specialist and Christmas baby, in 1955. We moved to MacArthur Boulevard (more room and sunsets over the reservoir) in 1958. Lisa, the oncologist and flutist, arrived 1959, and Steven, the maverick (lawyer) in 1961. We moved to Virginia (more room and a backyard creek) in 1970. Somehow I survived metastatic cancer in 1989. Mostly I'm retired (a D.C. public school teacher). Buck Rogers and I have 10.5 grandkids blasting into 2000.
My name is Samuel Hochheimer. I live in Lineboro, Md. I am 8. Two of my favorite things are Legos and pizza. I got my first Lego set when I was 5. I didn't really understand how to build the police set, but now I have lots of Legos and I understand how to build them all. I like the pizza at Paradiso in Washington. My favorite pizza is plain paradiso. You can watch the cooks make pizza. I watch them make pizza every time I go. I hope in the year 2000 people will keep eating pizza.
Hi, I'm Ryan Maynard. I'm 14 and go to ninth grade at Falls Church High School. I started to learn Braille in first grade when it became hard for me to see things. I'm writing this on a Braille 'n Speak, which is a computer that talks what I type into it. I also have a talking calculator and a talking dictionary. I can still see some things in my mind, such as my parents' and brothers' faces, but the colors and details are fading a little. I hope doctors will cure my disease someday so I can see them again.
My name is Keith A. Joseph. I'm a father. My father was not a good role model. He was a "ghetto celebrity," hustling, womanizing. He was murdered on a subway platform in the wee hours. Growing up, I found myself walking the same path as him. After his death, I realized he was wrong. All I prayed for was to have a son, so I could show him the right way to live. I am 34 and have been married for 14 years. God blessed me with two sons. I am a living example for them. That is why I became a police officer.
I am Lauren Small. I live in Arnold, Md., and I wrote a letter to my father today. Here it is: "Dad, I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday and behind me was a man whistling just as you always did. It reminded me so much of you that I started crying right there in line. I told the man the song reminded me of my father. He apologized because he could see I was upset. I told him not to be sorry because they were happy memories. His response was, `When did he pass away?' and I told him he hasn't, we just don't talk anymore. Love always, Lauren."
I'm Bob Hever of Columbia. When I was 11 I knew what I wanted to be: a test pilot for jets. I eventually piloted a Cessna. In my early teens I hoped to be an Eagle Scout. I got as far as Life Scout before my interest turned to girls. In the Air Force, I selected the drafting technical school. It was full, and I settled for airplane mechanics. Later, I wanted aerospace engineering but wound up spending 12 years writing reports and another 12 in sewerage, as a sanitary engineer. My life, like most people's, has been filled with compromises.
I'm David Genser. I grew up in California prosperity. My grandmother raised my mother, Mary Vick, in the Deep South in the depths of the Depression, a time and place where it was easy to blame your troubles on people who did not look like you. Grandma did not overcome all of her prejudices. Few of us do. Yet she gave her blessing for my mother to marry Phil Genser from Detroit because, even though he was a Jew, he loved my mother and was a good man. Bigotry and ignorance are defeated one decision at a time.
My name is Patrick Bator, 89, born in Ware, Mass., and worked in the post office for 35 years. I'm proud to have done two good deeds in my life. In World War II, I landed on Utah Beach in Normandy on June 8, 1944 -- D-day plus two -- receiving five Bronze Battle Stars and a Certificate of Merit signed by Gen. E. Plank. My second good deed involved my my wife, Constance Oliver Bator, whom I married on Valentine's Day in 1936, and who developed Alzheimer's, and whom I took care of for 10 years until her death in 1991. I am thankful to the Lord for allowing me to live long enough.
My name is Sarah Marie Wolf, and this summer my teacher at the University of Virginia asked the question "What are the races of the world?" I thought about my dad. He's Jewish. Is that a race? Then I thought about my mom. She's a Catholic and a Trinidadian. Is that another race? Is it two races? My best friend, Farah -- She's Pakistani-Candadian. What race is she? We all love chocolate milkshakes.
My name is Andrea Rakhmanov. Autumn 1981 marked my long-coveted acceptance to medical school and my first LSD trip, where my scientific worldview was blown away as I clearly perceived a subtle underlying order, a pulsating 3-D web of neon-colored luminous threads connecting everything to everything. The next summer, I ended up in a mental ward. Psychiatrists prescribed lithium, Haldol, Thorazine, etc. Most often, I resisted the mind-numbing chemicals and explored my inner confusion via meditation. I regained my mental health and realized what it means to be truly free. Today I work as a massage therapist and yoga instructor.
My name is Robert Burkett and I'm in the 11th grade. When I was about 12 years old, I was at my cousin's house and he was playing with a gun. I told him to put it away, and he didn't. I remember hearing a bang and seeing a lot of blood. I didn't really feel much on the way to the hospital since the bullet took out the main nerve in my left arm. I'm fine after nine surgeries. Do you still have guns in the 30th century? Why?
In life I was called David Ditmars. As a scientist-researcher I carried out accurate measurements on a small part of the natural world, related these to others' data, drew conclusions and passed this all along in print. Observation of the wider world led me to conclude that the appearance of our species has proved a disaster for the natural world. Little short of a mass extinction can save it from us. Our fantasies of populating the universe seem ignorant arrogance, for we are inextricably creatures of Earth till our time as a species is over.
My name is Stephanie Wood. I live in Reston. On Oct. 25, 1996, my father in Wyoming called me. I then reached my mother in Massachusetts. Navy pilot Robert S. Wood Jr.'s helicopter had crashed on a training mission in the Persian Gulf. My brother was not yet 30. His fiancee had their wedding invitations addressed and stamped. These lyrics were sung at a recent memorial service for victims of a plane crash in Halifax: "Do not stand by my grave and weep. I am not there; I do not sleep." Please, let it be true.
My name is Burton Kirschner, from Silver Spring. I am a retired weather forecaster. When I was a kid, my grandfather took me to see cowboy movies. He was a Hungarian Jew, but he had an Irish brogue because he worked with Irishmen on the New York docks. I admired his strength and I used him as a role model. About halfway through a movie he'd slap my thigh and say, "Let's go to the automat for a cup of coffee." That was a signal he wanted a smoke. We went to the automat. I saw the first half of a lot of cowboy movies.
My name is Karli Sakas. I am a freshman at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. At TJHSST, History 9 has been replaced by Technology 101. History is my favorite subject. Tech is not. I console myself with the fact that by the time I'm a senior, most of what I'm learning in Tech will be history.
I'm Virginia Morris Endicott, from Potomac. It first hit me when I was 7 and had just moved east from Chicago after the war. It was the fall of '46 and I was looking out of the second floor of my red-brick parochial school in Annapolis. There was a one-room shed, gray and weathered adjacent to the playground. There was one Catholic nun and about a dozen "nigras" of all ages and sizes. They were being herded into the shed. That was their school. I felt a little sick and didn't know why. I now know and still feel sick.
I'm Spencer Stephens of Rockville. Just before my eighth birthday, my father was killed when the Atlantic Ocean crushed his nuclear submarine. My mother found me a smart, funny midshipman who served as my "big brother" until he was killed in an airplane crash off Guam. I began using drugs at 16 and attempted suicide at 17. Today I am married to an amazing woman. Two huggable girls call me "Daddy." I am a trial attorney, the job for which I am certain I was born. I am so very happy. Isn't that how life in America is supposed to turn out?
My name is Sushma Sondhi, of Sterling. I am from India. We came to America with a dream to give our boys the best life. We sacrificed our settled life in our home country for our boys. One son, 19, met a much older woman who has two children from two different fathers. We asked him to complete his education before getting involved. He said, "Go to hell. Stop calling me." There is no bigger sorrow than to hear these words from your loved ones.
I'm Robin Ericson: a Christian, husband, father, citizen, retired Air Force officer, physicist, student and manager. For me, God is first, others second and I'm third. When my oldest son was 12, I promised to take him to a see a bell choir on the day of my return from a business trip. My boss pressured me to attend an important social event the same evening. My choice made me a hero to my son and cost me a promotion. The boy became a man, a Christian, a meteorologist and a programmer for the next NASA payload.
I'm Chiyoko Koizumi, 84, of Reston. I was born in California, educated in Japan. I returned to California just in time to suffer through the Depression. Married at 18, helped my husband farm, raised three children. After relocation camp, I did piecework sewing, cleaning houses, anything. My husband died. My children married. I worked. My best job was polishing hard contact lenses. When it ended I did babysitting and housecleaning. My son's wife is writing this down. I never learned good English. Too busy working. I am American.
I'm Thom Link. I love my husband, though some object to my use of that word. He cooks; I clean. He bikes; I rollerblade. I plan; he's spur-of-the-moment. We kayak, we dance to country music. Our song is "Another You, Another Me." Apart, we're invisible; together, we're indivisible. Some consider our love a sin; most family and friends understand that love is a gift. We're not activists; we pay taxes. We live on Capitol Hill; we have no representation on Capitol Hill. The government defends marriage by withholding recognition of our lifetime commitment.
My name is Aaron Kozloff, from Takoma Park. I was born in Minnesota on Sept. 29, 1990. My life is great. I am skinny and flexible. I love computers and other electronic games. I like to read books. I am a fast reader. I like to play Smash Hockey. I love birthday parties plus Christmas. I am a good athlete at soccer. I think you shouldn't pollute. When I think about the future I feel like I'm going to miss all the new inventions such as skateboards that fly.
My name is Marie Wallace of McLean. I grew up on a farm in south Texas and first picked a bale of cotton at age 9. Arriving in Washington in 1942, I helped in the development of the atomic bomb while working at the National Bureau of Standards. There I met my husband, who helped in the development of UNIVAC, an early computer. Now a widow, I am making a 2,000-piece quilt for the millennium. It is made of cotton.
My name is Shadid Wakil Ar-Raqid, of Lorton. It used to be Frank Ford Washington. I represent a forgotten segment of society; I am an inmate in prison. My whole life consisted of other people's opinions and evaluations of me. I fathered two daughters, but I was never a dad and eventually I became a grandfather. I've never voted. I've never owned a new car. I've never attended a family reunion. I've never attended a wedding as a guest. I attended my brother's funeral in cuffs and chains. I never went to Disney World. I lived a wasted life. I never lived.
My name is Jean Barrett of Vienna. I am picking acorns out of the pachysandra and reflecting on my life. The baby has her first bad cold. Our 3-year-old son alternates between being contradictory and affectionate. My husband and I are getting over an argument. As I hear more acorns hitting the roof of the car, I realize that I am happier than I have ever been. Because we have these demanding children. Because we must struggle with an imperfect marriage. And because it is one of those warm, bright Sundays in autumn that I wish would never end.
My name is Alan Roit, from Springfield. I thought I learned the truth of life at the age of 10, when I met a man who saw my grandmother walk into a gas chamber at Treblinka. I discovered the real truth of life at the age of 45, when I met my wife, Sheila. Now I see that life is full of love, beauty and trust.
My name is Carmen Pierce, from Fairfax. I grew up in a small town across the street from the funeral home. My father often assisted the undertaker with the townsfolk who had recently died. His job was to apply the makeup to the body. It wasn't uncommon for him to come home and ask my mom to inspect his handiwork. The entire family would then traipse across the street to see how lifelike they looked. Having recently attended the wake of a neighbor who looked very dead, I realize now that my dad was an artist.
"No, I'm sorry, I do not play the trombone." "Yes, he gave us some beautiful music." The name and the music were so much a part of their era it reminds them, and they ask me. I'm Air Force Lt. Col. Glenn A. Miller. The name brings out the stories. Thanks for sharing them with me; I love to hear them. Your generation rallied, fought and accomplished the incredible. May we never forget the immeasurable sacrifices and accomplishments of the American men and women, at home and on the battlefields, during World Wars I and II. Thank you all.
My name is Greg Arnold. My father worked for his father, who worked for his father at Arnold's Bookbindery in Reading, Pa. Leo Arnold, my grandfather, used to deliver books by wheelbarrow, taking a shortcut through the park. Once a policeman told him never to use the park again, as it wasn't for commerce. Leo ignored this. The next time he saw the cop in the distance, he quickly turned the wheelbarrow around facing the way he entered. The policeman said "Okay, I warned you. Turn around and be on your way." Leo did, delivering his books on time. I love this story. I work for the federal government.
My name is Kimberly Jackson. It's a new name. Despite the so-called shortage of available black men, I just got married. My father calls me Li'l Flower and insists that I buy a luxury car to look like the successful lawyer I am. I choose instead to drive my old Nissan. God gave me the wisdom to know that it makes more sense to invest in this bull market. It also makes sense to take advantage of these low interest rates and buy another, bigger house. Unlike today's high-tech entrepreneurs, we're going to get rich the old-fashioned way: slowly but surely.
I'm Frances A. Patton, whose federal civil service career began as a Stenographer and ended as a Senior Level Attorney. Upon retirement, I received a plaque "In recognition of 58 years of outstanding Federal service . . ." but no gold, silver or bronze work-performance medal. Needless to say, I am disappointed.
My name is Leah Manners. I live in Great Falls. My mother was raised a good Christian. My father, a staunch Jew. I am an atheist. I was told I could choose my religion once I reached the age of adulthood. I suppose I haven't reached that age because I am as yet unable to begin fervor where I did not have faith before. I am questioned constantly about how I live without hope. I say I have hope: I hope I'm not late for my next class; I hope I get home in time for soccer practice; I hope Dad's making spaghetti for dinner.
My name is Christian Feazel-Orr, from Vienna. I'm 12. I am a computer freak. I was born with a muscle disability and have been using a computer to write everything since second grade. I may not be very strong, but what I lack in muscle density I make up for in my ability to use and repair computers. My opinion is that physical superiority is not what matters anymore. The key is to utilize technology to the maximum. Making a point with your muscles, such as pro wrestling, is barbaric. This is not the Middle Ages.
My name is Phyllis Dreyfuss and part of my life's work has been to conduct oral histories with older individuals. As a baby boomer, I have seen the role of the "little woman" shift to "corporate mom." Startling progress after you hear the stories about those who did not survive childbirth, much less have the right to vote. Still, ageless roots transcend time and "progress." No matter what I have become, I am still built like my little Russian grandma: low and squat enough to harvest the crops.
My name is Deirdre Donahue. I moved here after law school and pursued a rewarding career. Now I'm home, having abandoned the law to care for my children. It wasn't a difficult decision. It's okay if you think that's boring. At 16 I swam across the Hudson River on a dare. I can drink a bottle of beer while standing on my head. My father died recently and the most important thing he taught me was to shake hands firmly, like a man.
My name is Kevin Meng. I am 13. When I was in China, there was a problem between me and my father. My father was head of a company. He worked hard to make money. I never had a chance to talk with him; there was a space between us. I remember once his stocks crashed, and he was so angry. He whispered to my mother, and she cried. I was so miserable. Then my mother told me that my father had been trying to make enough money to live in America. Finally, I understood what my father had been going through. We are here now, and I really understand.
I'm Homer Allison, 74, retired USAF, served in two wars. Two wives, six children. First wife died when she fell out of a car. They said I pushed her and I served two years' jail time for manslaughter. Fought dishonorable discharge and won. One son in Vietnam; both sons killed, one in a gun accident, one hanged himself and I never knew why. I survived a plane crash, two auto wrecks and a killer hurricane. I love my God and church, my wife and family, my country and its heroes. Impatiently and breathlessly awaiting new millennium and my next 25 years.
My name is Robin Whitaker, of Columbia. I'm the great-granddaughter, the granddaughter and the daughter of fruit growers who have farmed the same land in western Michigan. In 1899 my family started the orchards, which may soon be sold. The cherry blossoms will belong to someone else. So will the apple trees, groaning under their fall carnelian load. When I'm old and return to the house of my birth, I may poach peaches from the new owner; I'll eat them right off the tree, fuzz and all, and the dribbles of juice that stain my shirt front I'll consider my own.
My name is Stanley Adoff, of North Bethesda. My six best friends and I met in fourth grade at PS 104 in the Bronx. We were all born in 1927. We were all inducted or enlisted into the armed services during World War II. When that happened, we all went to a jeweler with a 1927 Liberty Head (peace) silver dollar and had it cut into seven pie-shaped pieces with a punched hole, to be worn with our dog tags. We celebrated our 70th birthdays in Key West three years ago, and damned if we weren't able to reassemble the whole dollar.
I am Jamshid Amouzegar. I live in Chevy Chase. I am the former prime minister of Iran. On Dec. 21, 1975, I was presiding over the OPEC conference in Vienna when a door flew open. "Don't move, this is . . ." Gunshots drowned out the voice. I ducked for cover. When the shooting stopped, I looked at the bullet holes in the wall behind me. Had I been two inches taller, I would be dead. Later, my wife needed medical treatment in the United States. I accompanied her. While we were here, the shah was overthrown. Other former prime ministers were killed. The upshot? I believe in fate.
I'm Bill Moulden, 70. A Depression-born working-class kid, I tolerated school, played ball, worked and went to war, married and helped make the baby boom. Why, I couldn't say. "Daddy" became my main role. With another on the way I bucked for promotion, overtime, took a second job. We loved those kids even as their gurus were telling them not to trust their parents. Still love them, but I jump when the phone rings. You'll see me standing in mall corners. Big in front, pants hanging slack in the rear. I've long since worked my ass off.
My name is James Pierce, and I always wanted to play professional baseball. At 7, I became a pitcher. When I found out my dad switched me at birth from being left-handed, I was ticked off. Every team needs another left-handed pitcher. Dad told me being a righty would make my life easier and longer. Lefties ink themselves writing and have more car crashes, he said. I was still mad. I pitched daily, my brain warring with my arm. I missed whatever is supposed to happen between ages 14 and 19. It is dangerous to have only one dream.
I am Emma Gooby. I live in Easton, Md. I have been under God's molding from birth to now, age 71. I finally turned to our Creator-Father-God in time to be included to live on the new Earth ruled by Jesus Christ, with his body of saints as permanent inhabitants. The change from gentile to Christian must be made on this old Earth through Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, now! Otherwise, having not made the turn, one cannot live on the new Earth in the eternal world as God's child and part-heir to Jesus. Nineteen ninety-nine is the deadline.
My name is Paul Anderson. I was born, second of seven, on a Minnesota subsistence farm. My father was the firstborn, so he stayed on the farm. My mother was a teacher, a farm wife, then a librarian. I was raised religious, but that ended when my youngest brother was run over by a tractor. I worked hard and was in Who's Who before 40. By 50, my daughters were educated and work wasn't fun anymore, so I retired. Now I walk people's dogs along the Potomac, as a business, and ponder the meaning of life. I think I've got it. And I'm happy.
My name is Donna M. Clarke and I am immortal. My best friend, Stephen Albers Clarke, teacher of mathematics, father of Amy and Emily, remembers me still as the girl in the yellow dress he met more than 30 years ago. I am unchanged by time, frozen forever in the eyes of Stephen's love.
My name is Garrett Waters and I attend St. Bernadette's School. I once made a play in a basketball game that you wouldn't believe. There were three seconds left and my team was down by two. My teammate passed me the ball. I shot from half court, and there was a long silence. Wish. Swish. I watched the ball go through the net and we won. My hope for the future is that everybody gets this feeling some time in their lives.
My name is Ellen D. Light. I just had it changed this summer, after 23 years in a dark marriage. I know it sounds silly, but it's a very liberating, happy name for me. I dropped my married name, and took on Light. Best $29 I ever spent.
My name is Alexis Williams. I am 14. I live on a farm in nowhere, Virginia. My father, a black man from Louisiana, has his own store, which is his most prized possession. My mom is a full-time nurse. She spends so much time taking care of other people that she neglects her own needs. Although the love in our house is strong, family outings are uncomfortable. Because my mom is white, people often stare. I guess if I tried I could blend in with the crowd. But I don't want to.
My name is Patsy Gayle Panzenhagen. I was born on a farm in southern Virginia, the sixth of 11 siblings. I was very frail, suffering from cholera. At 3, I could not talk or walk. My mother was pregnant, my father an alcoholic and I was dying. However, my family had a black mammy. For a year, Rosa mashed sweet potatoes with turnip-green broth and fed me by the spoonful, gradually increasing the amount. I am now 87 years old. I live in the National Lutheran Home in Rockville. I never forgot Rosa, but for some reason I find myself thinking about her all the time, now.
I am Catherine Rylyk, of Arlington. I am the daughter of Camilla and Andrew, two people who were once in love. When I was a baby, they wrapped me in a soft yellow blanket to comfort me on cold nights. Now I am 16 and live in two houses. Both are comfortable, both furnished with traces of my past, but neither is my home. I live in an eternal state of limbo, constantly shuttled from one destination, clique or ideology to the other. But I still have my yellow baby blanket, and when I wrap the tattered fabric around my shoulders, I find warmth.
I am Dorit Jaeger. I am from Saxony, in Germany, but I live in Vienna, Va. Am I an adult after 18 years of growing up? Am I an educated person after 12 years of school? Am I a woman after seven years of menstruation? Am I a vegetarian after 5 years of eating no meat? Am I a heterosexual after some boyfriends? Am I a good au pair after six weeks of caring for children? At what age does one know the answers to these things? Someone please tell me.
I am Jeanne Metangho. I am the wife of a doctor, mother of three girls and two boys. When I was a young girl in Cameroon, I could not accept polygamy. Since my husband became a chief when his father died, I realized that there are some things in my culture that I cannot change by myself even if I don't agree with them. I now live in Maryland with my husband and my kids. There are many women waiting for my husband when he gets back to the country to work. By the time this system changes, I will be long gone.
Hello, my name is Terrance D. Rand. I am 11 years old. I was named by my sister. My sister named me after a boy in her class. I was born in Queens, N.Y. I used to have a nice mom, but she died in 1994. She wasn't that old. Now I live with my aunt in Falls Church. My dad and aunt are arguing about when my dad can see me. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. I really want to see my sister. I haven't seen her since I was 4. I don't even know the people she lives with.
I am Lillian Carter. In 1956, when I was 12, my grandmother would take me to work with her on Woodley Road, where she was a housekeeper. She would make me help her. "Do it right or don't do it at all. You may be doing this for a living someday," she would say. In 1983 I became the first nationally registered African American woman to provide emergency life support in Washington. Today, I am the assistant director of emergency medical services in the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, managing 30 ambulances. I still believe in doing it right.
My name is Virginia Kilgore. My father was a farmer. One day when he was cutting wood, he found some eggs. My sister and I set them under a hen. When they hatched, they were little birds. We had a red rooster. He kept killing the birds. We punished him by making him pull a baby carriage around and whipping him if he stopped. We gave him rocks to eat. Finally, he died. I am 86 years old, and when I look back at my life, guess what? I remember this rooster.
My name is Tina Rowand. I popped into the world on Oct. 30, 1983, and if I had to do it all over again, my mother would have used birth control. In my almost but not quite 16 years of life, I've acquired an annoying sister, many cats, Moon Boots, a lava lamp, a cheap computer, a great deal of jewelry, very little money, a morbid sense of humor, occasional suicidal tendencies and a preference for black clothing. If I make it to adulthood, I'll be a pathologist and do autopsies for a living.
My name is Virginia Peters and I live in McLean. Born in the South during the Depression, I wore dresses fashioned from feed sacks. Teaching Northern children to read was a challenge; we couldn't understand each other. After meeting a mother who slept with the lights on so rats wouldn't bite her children, I helped the church build housing for poor people. From a cardboard box on the back seat of the car grew a multi-million-dollar nonprofit business. When I was presented to the Queen of England, I wore a short-sleeve dress purchased from a consignment shop.
I'm Mindy Richman Garfinkel. One January, my mother, Renee Wolk Richman, had holes drilled into her back so bone marrow could be extracted. It was whisked away in a picnic cooler and transported to a leukemia patient in Michigan. She bruised purple, red, blue, green and yellow. She never knew the name of the recipient, whose disease claimed him the following summer. After that, someone asked her if she'd do it again. "Of course," she replied. "There's no such thing as false hope." She died five years ago in a car crash on Thanksgiving eve.
My name is Jon Grunspan. At age 13 I watched my father die slowly of cancer. He was a proud man, embarrassed by his infirmity. I was a timid child, afraid to upset his already fragile state. We made an uncommunicative tandem, leaving our most heartfelt sentiments unspoken. Now, 10 years after his death, although I know he loved me dearly and made many sacrifices for my benefit, I do not miss him. Instead I've come to view pride with great skepticism, and timidity as a running leap down the path to a passionless, detached life.
My name is Kate Beysselance, and my husband and two kids think I have the coolest job in town. I am the project manager on the restoration of the Washington Monument. I am the only woman working regularly on site, and as far as the records show, I was the first woman to touch the top of the Monument. Other than that, I'm a lot like most of the other women I know -- struggling every day to be attentive mothers, good wives, devoted friends, excellent employees and decent housekeepers. (I think we've lost our minds.)
My name is Jillian Byrnes. I live in Frederick, Md. I am 16 and I still read fairy tales by candlelight. My dad confines himself to a chair, by choice. He reads whatever he can, smoking a cigarette. Sometimes, he reads the dictionary. It just goes to show that a construction worker is more than meets the eye.
My name is Julie Peck. I'm not old enough to know where I was when JFK was shot, but I've been around long enough to have worn bell-bottoms, twice. My father co-authored a book about parenting with his wife, whom he left us for when I was 9. I grew up in Northern Virginia. My mom saved the Post headline "Nixon Resigns." I saved "Clinton Impeached." I danced at the Rock Against Reagan Concert, then ended up marrying a Young Republican. We have two sons. One began reading before he was 2, the other is mildly autistic.
My name is Miriam E. Tucker. I developed diabetes when I was 9. Now 35, I test my blood sugar and take insulin shots four times daily. It's a constant struggle. Of course there is much more to me than diabetes, but it does color my entire life. I work as a medical writer specializing in diabetes. I derive great satisfaction from helping people understand the disease. What would I be doing had I not developed diabetes? I have no idea. Diabetes will probably kill me in the end but, oddly enough, it's also given me a reason to live.
My name is Aman Onallah and I am 9 in the fourth grade and go to the Science Focus School in Arlington. I really want to be a medical doctor. There are still things that medical doctors don't know yet. I want to be the first one to know what they are and also to make things easy for people. For example, I am diabetic. Instead of having insulin shots, I want people like me to be able to eat insulin in a sandwich.
My name is Jerry Hyman. I was born right in the middle of the century, like a zillion other kids. I watched "Howdy Doody" and "Ozzie and Harriet," and I ate TV dinners. Then I went to college and threw rocks at ROTC parades and screamed curses at policemen and ripped down a beautiful old wrought-iron fence and barricaded a street with it. Now I have a security clearance and work for the Defense Department. Go figure. My daughter draws peace signs because she thinks they're "cool." Sometimes she thinks she wants to dress like a hippie for Halloween.
My name is Pratiti Kaka. As a child I learned dancing, and my mom thought I'd grow up to be a dancer of renown. I soon joined skating classes. She assumed I'd break Olympic records. When I started swimming, she hoped I'd swim across the English Channel someday. But all her dreams crash-landed when I grew up to be an ordinary, amiable girl with varied interests. After managing an office, I married a wonderful man of my choice and am enjoying life. Just the other day, someone told Mom, "I want my daughter to be like yours."
I am Fred H. Chiles, of Washington. I am a twice-retired disabled octogenarian, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. I used to work in the White House post office and worked with youths as a volunteer-in-the-forest for the U.S. Forest Service, until I broke a hip. I am too old to run and too ashamed to crawl. Pain and insomnia are my inseparable companions. The only thing that I can exercise is caution.
My name is Helen M. Eaton, of Falls Church. I grew up in the '30s and '40s during the Depression and World War II. There was less materialism then. I joined the Peace Corps in September 1961 before they even had formal application blanks, and discovered Africa firsthand. I married a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, and we spent our first year of marriage, 1964, participating in the integration struggle in the South. We raised our children in Africa. Recently, after 32 years of marriage, my husband left me to live with his secretary. I still keep abreast of world affairs.
My name is Christopher Langstaff, from Washington. I am 12. My dad's dad is Ken Langstaff, who is married to Percy Lee Langstaff. Her great-grandfather was Stephen Dill Lee, who was distantly related to Robert E. Lee. Stephen Dill Lee was an artillery general for the Confederacy. It was his artillery at the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, in the cornfield at Antietam. We have his sword. We use it to cut wedding cakes.
My name is Connie Henry. I am known to many as a faceless bureaucrat. I work for the Food and Drug Administration in the Office of Food Labeling. My co-workers and I helped design the new food label. We make sure the information on the label is truthful and not misleading. This helps you decide what foods you want to eat. I work on claims such as "light" and "low fat." Before that I helped approve heart drugs and before that I inspected food. I have a husband and three growing daughters. I hope my work has made your life better.
I am Maryrose Vigna Patrone of Clifton, Va.. I was born in 1929 in Wilsonville, Ill. Our town was a tiny huddle of immigrant coal miners in Depression-era houses without running water, furnaces or electricity. My parents had immigrated from Italy with no money, each with a third-grade education. Still, when I craved WPA dresses like my classmates wore, my mother said, "No, no. Those are for the poor kids, and we are rich." I've been rich all my life.
My name is Ruth Smith. I live in Alexandria. I am 16. Like a normal teenager, I rebel against my parents. I go to parties when they think I'm at a movie. I have a boyfriend they've never met and don't know about. I never clean my room when they tell me to. I wear clothes they hate under clothes they love. The language I use around my friends would give them a heart attack. I am getting my navel pierced despite their protests. And yet I've never gotten into trouble, I'm a good athlete, and I get straight A's.
My name is Patricia Patterson, from Gambrills, Md. I am a lawyer turned Realtor and I think my life is upside down. My forebears built theirs in progressive, orderly ways: marriage, children, growing security. I rejected this route, claiming instead my equal right to be oppressed in the workplace alongside men. Now, finally, I am a grandmother-aged mother and recently quit a good job to work closer to home making far less money. I compute my Social Security credits and worry about college costs as I fold my daughter's Big Bird underwear. But I am smiling.
My name is Ray Browne. I'm a D.C. guy. And a recovering alcoholic. For 20 years my life was detoxes, firings, evictions, convictions, you name it. Then God reached down and touched me. He did it through strangers. Good Samaritans. They took me off the street, scrubbed me up, taught me how to live. Now I have a life, a family, a job. What did I learn? Jesus loves me. Then. Now. Love conquers fear like paper covers rock. When you see a guy sitting on the curb, give him a buck or a smile. I asked how I could repay the gifts given me. They said, "Pass it on." So there you go.
My name is Martin Harrison. I'm a 21-year-old African American male, living in Seat Pleasant, Md. I recently lost my father to a stroke. He was the greatest man I have ever known. He was not a stereotypical latter-day 20th-century black father. He was not a "deadbeat." He was just a simple man who rose from a poor, rural community in North Carolina, worked hard, and raised a family here in the D.C. area. I will dedicate the remainder of my life to being half the man he was.
My name is Laura Hartmann and I am 15. I have a brother with autism and a mother with breast cancer. My brother can't speak, and yet a world of communication is opened up in one giggle. I remember looking at my mother, weak from chemotherapy, and making her smile at a silly joke. What I've come to realize is that life is fleetingly short and incredibly hard if you don't laugh.
My name is Michael Massey. I live the storied suburban life of a born and bred Northern Virginian. Good family, good friends and a good education were my constant companions down the busy streets that led to the athletic fields, malls and local fast-food hangouts. Now 27, married and still in Northern Virginia, I feel the weight of the gifts that have been given me. I hope to carry this welcome burden with dignity, charity and a luxury minivan with decent cup-holders.
I am Aaron Hess. I live in Bethesda. I was born in Colorado. I am 16, trying to live in the present. I don't really have a past yet. I am worried about my future. I wish that I were not afraid of the world that I am growing up into. I fear I am shrinking into privilege. I love sunrises and rain and other people. I sometimes feel that maybe if I was 16 people I could make a difference. I want to make a difference. I want to be famous and humble and different and accepted and respected and loved.
My name is Sophie Rosenbaum. I am a retired New York schoolteacher. I am 93 years old. I love to tell people how old I am because I always get the same response: "You don't look it." I am more surprised than they are because I certainly did not expect to live this long. I had breast cancer when I was 50. I live alone and take care of myself. I do my own shopping and do not need any assistance. I do not have to worry about the future because this is it.
I'm Raymond Roske. I live in Maryland. I love the look in my kids' eyes when I tell them that their mom and I love God, and will never split up. When I was 17 my dad left. My mom cleaned out his stuff, including a box of bowling trophies. I took a nice walnut one, engraved with "High Score -- 299," to the old folks' home where I worked. I gave it to a guy named Roland who bowled rocks at soda cans outside every day. I learned that good can come from any situation.
I'm Gordon Livingston. I went to West Point to become a soldier. Tired of learning to kill, I became a doctor. At a military ceremony in Vietnam in 1969 I handed the commanding general a satirical prayer I had written. ("Lord, forget not the least of thy children as they hide from us in the jungles; bring them under our merciful hand that we may end their suffering. . . .") Before I was discharged from the Army as "an embarrassment," I adopted an Amerasian child of the war. Michael is 30 now. When I look at him I remember who I was in the moment I chose life over death.
I am Teddy Deneroff. My husband died six years ago after 48 years with me. I live in a retirement home in Maryland now. Four months ago, a new man, a recent widower, arrived at my table in the dining hall. His name is Theodore. Mine is Theodora. His wife's name was Pauline. My husband's name was Paul. He was the sixth child in a family of eight. Me, too. He has two sons. Me, too. There is a Jewish expression, beshert. It means "meant to be." Listen. After love and loss, there can be love again.
I am Keith White, of Springfield. I am 15. I have a brother, Christopher White, who has been a wonderful teacher. Like me, Christopher, 24, was born into a good home, with loving parents and the gift of opportunity. As a teacher, he has accomplished a great deal. He traded in everything he had for the most important thing, drugs. From him I learned two lessons. First, drugs never fulfill a person. And second, he taught me how to deal with death.
I am Erin Flanagan. I live in Alexandria. When I was 7 I read a book about Lincoln. He said he didn't see how man could look up into the heavens and not believe in God. At my house, we didn't believe in God, so I went home and told Mom. She said, "That was long ago. We go up there now, in rockets. And there's nothing. No God. No nothing." That night I lay down on the grass and looked at the stars. And I knew, for the first time, that grown-ups could be wrong.
I am Darrell Pierre. I am an angry black man. I am angry because lives like mine never make headlines. My degree from Georgetown University ill prepared me for a rap music career. Sharing caffeine pills during finals hardly made me drug kingpin material. Years spent becoming a 27-year-old bank vice president left no time to father a slew of illegitimate children. Most of all, I am angry that my jump shot is even less accurate than the government's estimate of how many men were at the Million Man March. Thanks for reading about me here.
My name is Jane Yarney. I was born on May 19, 1985, in Charlottesville. My first word was "ding." Ding meant "eat." This was because my mom went to night school, so that left my dad, sister and me with microwave dinners.
My name is David Edward Barry. I am a Catholic priest. When I celebrate Mass, I look good in the white outfit with silver trim and the hand-embroidered hunter-green cross. I receive valuable gifts from admiring people. Some take me to expensive restaurants; others send me on exotic vacations. Once, an elderly couple gave me a new car. When I go home, my family dredges up childhood memories and tells bawdy stories. After dinner, my job is to wash the pots and pans. My brothers and sisters do not think I am a Prince of the Church.
I am Reya Millicker, of Takoma Park. My parents were activist, intellectual, Marxist Jews. In the '50s they were blacklisted; in the '60s they worked for civil rights and painted an orange
Day-Glo peace sign in our front window to publicize their opposition to the Vietnam War. They embarrassed the hell out of me, and I swore I would grow up to be normal. But what's written in one's DNA cannot be denied. Thirty years later, I am a 46-year-old Jewish bisexual priestess of eco-feminist witchcraft.
I am Elaine Pirozzi of Washington. I teach children. Whenever I am confronted with one of the aspects of my job that I dislike -- low pay, lack of respect -- I return to that simple sentence and find it remains every bit as miraculous and awe-inspiring. I teach children. I am also a single Washingtonian woman, which I am told is not an uncommon thing to be. And while it is not an altogether bad thing, it was never in my plan. Only when others think that they can form some judgment of me based on this single fact am I tempted to scream. I occasionally do.
About This Project
In September 1999, The Washington Post asked readers to submit autobiographical sketches of 100 words or fewer. There were no other requirements, except that the stories be true. In the following month, the newspaper received more than 3,300 entries. The 100 autobiographies chosen for publication were selected on the strength of the writing, the impact of the stories, and the degree to which the life experiences of the writers reflected the community at large. All published writers live in, or have ties to, the Washington area.