January 15, 2011 - She was born on the day that America suffered the attack that made 9-11 a watchword of our history; the day on which America marked the end of an aura of our invulnerability, September 11th, 2001. She died to become an icon in the violent history of America, killed in a fusillade that left 5 others dead and 14 others wounded including a Member of Congress. She was the youngest of the victims. She was Christina-Taylor Green, age 9.
She was the Pirates’ Second Baseman, the only girl on her Little League team. She comes from a baseball family. Her father scouts for the Dodgers. Her grandfather managed the Phillies to the World Championship in the 1980 Series. She told her father that she wanted to be the first woman to play Major League Baseball.
She picked blackberries in summer, her fingers stained purple in the summer sun. She sledded in the winter’s snows. Elected to her school’s student council she went with a friend to see her representative in Congress; to witness for herself the democracy she had studied in school; and with that visit she became at once the embodiment of our brightest hopes and of our deepest fears.
She was eulogized by a President of the United States. In a calm and quiet voice he told of a picture book that Christina had made and of the words she had written in it, “I hope you jump in rain puddles.” In my mind’s eye I saw again my own daughter on her way to school on a rainy spring day, dressed in a yellow slicker and big yellow boots that seemed too large. At each puddle on the sidewalk she would pause; survey it closely; and then jump to the center landing with both feet – just to watch the water splash. Then she would move on to the next puddle.
There is another image engraven in my mind – a misshapen head; narrow set and burning eyes; and a demonic grin. These two pictures contend for supremacy. One, of the best that is America. It is the image of the best of our aspirations; of our boundless curiosity; of the brightness of our future as a nation. The other, of the darkest of our fears; the alienation of our spirit; an image of hopeless apprehension in the darkest of nights. It is the image of America at its worst.
A century and a half ago another President from Illinois, lashed by bitter and warlike words, reached out in vain to his political adversaries and said, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
Christina-Taylor Green was one of those angels. Gabriella Giffords has been another. Let us be touched by them that we, and America, can become again united in the quest to become the best that we can be. May we always jump in rain puddles.