“What’s so bad about being caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals?” I asked sincerely.

My teacher, the all-knowing Mrs. Peck, replied, “You forgot the rest of that definition, Jenny. Quixotic most closely means ‘idealistic without regard to practicality’.” She smiled and continued to hand back papers. Suddenly, our principal, Mr. Lelle, threw open the classroom door and beckoned Mrs. Peck out of the room. “Stay seated class,” Mrs. Peck said with a worried face.

I see other teachers in the hallway through the little window in the door as I walk defiantly to the back of the room to sharpen my pencil. My classmates all looked around at each other and buzzed suspiciously as I returned to my seat. Gradually, we all returned to editing our fictional short stories.

Mrs. Peck returned to the room a few minutes later with Chauncey Schwendeman’s swanky parents in tow. They were both wearing very expensive watches and grim expressions. I figured someone had died. Sad, but not very interesting to a sixth grade outcast. Chauncey gathered up his things and left with his parents. Things settled down quickly and continued pretty normally. All of my teachers looked overly sad, and my classmates surmised that Chauncey’s grandfather had died. That would be a huge financial blow to the church and school. I continued to mind my own business, complete my busy work, and sneakily read my new novel when I thought my teachers weren’t looking. Parents came and picked up my classmates periodically throughout the day, and I remember wishing my parents were wealthy members of the church so I could go home and finish my book peacefully.

As the school day drew to a close and the dreaded gym class period was upon us, my classmates and I were shocked to find out that we were not going to change into our stinky gym uniforms and do jumping jacks and other menial fitness activities. Instead, the most evil Mrs. Drake wanted us to sit down in home room and write at least two pages about ourselves. She wanted us to put the date at the top in big, bold print and write about what happened that day. She wanted to know how we were feeling, what we were thinking and dreaming about, our hopes and aspirations, and what we were looking forward to. She told us to keep in mind that we do not live in a perfect world, and that sometimes change is a good thing.

I began writing furiously about anything and everything. I wrote that Mrs. Peck told me Utopia is bad just because it is unrealistic, that my sister and mom had cancer, and I that I only had 23 pages left in “The Secret of Dragonhome”. When the bell rang, the class sprang simultaneously to our feet and tried to turn in our papers. Mrs. Drake told us to give them to our parents, and we all shrugged and ran out to the parking lot.

I skipped to the bus alone after the classroom had cleared out. As I boarded the bus, I cheerily said hello to the driver and I plopped down in Seat #2 (Jenny Martin’s assigned seat).She glared at me and turned to look out the windshield. I shrugged and took out my book. I only had twenty pages left!

About 30 minutes later, my bus driver notified me that it was my stop. I grabbed my bag and hopped off the bus. The other two kids’ parents were at the bus stop waiting for them. I remember thinking what a weird day it was. I finished the last two pages of my book and bounded into my house to tell my mom all about it. To my surprise, she was standing in the doorway to the kitchen waiting for me. This was very strange indeed because she was working on a very big quilt and she should have been sewing.

She put her hand on my shoulder and led me to the living room. I sat down in daddy’s big leather TV chair as my mom turned the TV on. I remember seeing images of a plane crashing into a really tall building, bloody people crying, screaming and running away from smoke and fire. There was a lot of fire. I looked at my mom and she had a single tear running down her strong, stoic, Cherokee face. My dad walked in the room and took my hand.

A few moments later, my brother and sister burst into the house yelling a jumble of things concurrently and my father silenced them with his special this-is-serious look. They walked into the living room and we all stood together as a family viewing the carnage. It seemed like an eternity that we stood there in silence watching US Flight 93 crash into the World Trade Center over and over again. My dad finally turned to his three mismatched kids and looked us in the eyes one at a time. After another eternity, he opened his mouth and said softly but sternly, “This is the price of freedom.”