A Story by Christina May Shanaberg

Written for Ellen Hammond, a talented writer on this site!




Nancy Crumm told her husband, when she left for work, that this day was going to be a piece of cake.  It was her first day, alone, working as a substitute teacher and she had a sixth grade honors class.  She knew that there would be no problems with these bright and talented youngsters.


When she arrived in the room, the class had already taken their seats.  The principal had held her up, in his office, and made her late.  What a terrible example to set for the pupils.  However, she apologized briefly and introduced herself, writing her name on the chalkboard.  Then, she took attendance and everyone was present.


Next, she thought that it would be nice to start off the day saying the "Pledge of Allegiance," like she had done, always, when she was in elementary school.  She asked the students to stand and recite the pledge.  A groan, barely audible, swept through the classroom.


As she was getting ready to start the pledge, she noticed that one of the children was still seated and said, forcefully, "Miss, please stand for the 'Pledge of Allegiance!'"


The young girl, with steely blue eyes and golden ringlets, began to cry and stated, "I don't feel like saying the pledge, today, Ma'am."


"Please, stand up and join the rest of your class, now!"


"Mrs. Crumm, I really can't," the girl sobbed.


Nancy was getting very frustrated, at this point, and questioned, "What is your name?"


The child had calmed, a bit, and answered, "Ellen, Ellen Hammond."


"O'kay, Miss Hammond, if you do not stand with the rest of the class, now, and say the 'Pledge of Allegiance', I will have to report your lack of cooperation and patriotism to the principal."


A few of her classmates snickered, as Ellen rolled her chair from behind her desk.  The teacher gasped!  The lovely, little blond-haired lady wheeled her chair right up to the flag, that was in a corner, at the front of the room.


She began,


"I pledge allegiance to the flag

Of the United States of America


"You know I never really understood this part.  Why are we pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth, with our hand on our heart?  Wouldn't it be better to pledge allegiance to each other, while holding hands?


"All this flag reminds me of is the day I lost my legs, my mother, and my baby brother, because of a drunk driver.  It happened infront of a Perkins Pancake House, with their giant flag blowing in the wind.  I can remember looking up and seeing it there, as they were taking me to the ambulance.  I had asked, 'What about my mother and my brother?'  The paramedics told me that they were tending to them, because they didn't want to tell me that they were dead.  This flag reminds me of the one on my mother's coffin, next to my little brother's tiny coffin.  She lived through two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf and was killed on her way home from the grocery store.


"When was the last time that anyone in this class, even, really noticed this flag, when they came in the room.  I do, every day, and it is a reminder of painful memories.


"When was the last time that you saw anyone stop, anywhere, and look at the flag with reverance and, silently or aloud, say the pledge with their hand upon their heart.


"And to the Republic

For which it stands,


"Plato stated that a Republic was an ideal state.  Do you see anything ideal about the state that I'm in?  There is nothing ideal about a state that allows murderers to drive around inside of weapons, killing mothers and their children and maiming innocent people.  The man who hit us had been arrested for drunk driving twice, before.


"One Nation,

Under God,


"There is no unity, in this country.  If it's not happening to us, it's none of our business.  People want to take 'Under God' out of the pledge and I can understand why.  The godly are disappearing from this country, right before our very eyes.  Is it godly that a man can look at himself, in the mirror, and not feel remorse for killing two innocent persons and destroying the lives of their family.  I don't want to be one with people like that.




"I think I will stand for what I believe in, alone.  I don't want to be part of a heartless world.


"With liberty


"I will never be free, again, to run and play with my friends.  My liberty was taken away.  I will never be free to enjoy a ride in the country, again, without being afraid of who is driving the other cars and what condition they are in.  I'm not free to have the dreams that other kids have, because I am stuck in this chair.


"And justice


"My justice is that I won't be going to cheerleading camp, this summer, or any summer.


"My justice is that the man who did this to me was out of jail, on a technicality, before I was home from the hospital.


"My justice is that I will not see my brother grow up, graduate from school, get married, or have children.


"My justice is that I never got to hug my mother 'good-bye.'


"My justice is being told by my counselor to stop being a 'victim,' when she has a picture of her and her mother and her brothers and sisters and their children standing infront of the tree, last christmas, on her desk.


"My justice in getting off of the special needs bus, out front, and watching the man who did this weaving by, infront of the school.


"For all.


"But not for me.


"No, Mrs. Crumm, I don't feel like saying the pledge, today!"


The teacher looked at her, with tears in her eyes, and said, "Oh, Ellen, I wish there was something that I could do."


"There is.  You can write to the representatives of your state and local governments, demanding that people who have no regard for the lives of others do not fall through the cracks.  You can volunteer to help with projects sponsored by your local Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  You can not drive drunk and see to it that your friends and family don't, either.  Be a designated driver.  Contact local tavern owners and ask their permission to hang posters of the victims of area drunk drivers and their mangled vehicles, on the exit doors.  You can do whatever you can think of to make sure that this doesn't happen to another twelve year old sixth grader."


Nancy realized that the class was still standing and instructed, "O'kay, everyone take your seats.  For the next hour, we will be writing letters to our state representatives and telling them how we feel about drunk driving, not for Ellen, but for all.  And, maybe, the next time Ellen says the pledge she will remember that, at least, our little world stood united."

© 2010 Christina May Shanaberg

Author's Note

Christina May Shanaberg
This is not the actual story of Ellen's accident, but was written as a tribute to her courage and survivorship.

We love you, Ellen! You are in our thoughts, daily!!

My Review

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Featured Review

Wow! Thank you. I am very touched and honored by this tribute. I love how you worked the "Pledge of Allegiance" into this story. Just one little thing, our pledge is a little different....I'm Canadian. LOL But your pledge works well. You have a gift for putting yourself in another's shoes...or shoe...to get an important message across.

Posted 13 Years Ago

4 of 4 people found this review constructive.


Great story telling. This did justice in the realm of getting the message across. Great message. There's lot of times where a story can have a great message to aim for, and have a lot of under lining things but then no one gets it, and if no one gets it, then the point has failed. But in my opinion this did well to get the message across. You made it clear, which is why I think it's good. Keep up the good work. What was also great was that I could imagine the story as I read it, and that is also a strong point of stories. The ability to have the reader imagine it because after all we're reading not watching it, but it was as if I was there as I read this, and that is great. Good job once again.

Posted 7 Years Ago

This was an amazing tribute. Definately powerful.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is so touching and my favorite story of yours. Really emotional and moving. Wonderfully written Christina.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Crumm , a truly apt name for how the teacher would have felt an excellent tribute, as for a sixth grade honors student being CAPABLE of such an eloquent statement, i disagree with a previous review in that it is extremely possible a bright child could do so. the mental hiccup probably occurs in that even an adult is unlikely to speak so well on the fly.
another excellent telling thank you for sharing

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Dear Christina,

I love this piece and Ellen is a dear friend on WritersCafe. The message is wonderful, important, and powerfully delivered. So I have very mixed feelings about pointing out my single difficulty with the piece, and that is that it seems highly unlikely that a 6th grader in an honors class would first defy the teacher, be bold enough to essentially take over the class, and then speak so eloquently on the Pledge of Allegiance and the injustice that she had suffered. The message is wonderful, but the setup for its delivery seems unrealistic.

Now despite this objection, I rate this piece very highly (97%) and that is because the speech spoken by the girl was just remarkable, brilliant writing, and I truly have to applaud you for this. Kudos. You show incredible insight and empathy, and you have carefully balanced the power of the pledge against the injustices of the world. And this is so difficult, i.e., balancing freedoms with injustice.

A wonderful piece. Congratulations! Thank you for the read request.

Best regards,


Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

It is very kind of you to give tribute to someone whose life has been changed forever by a terrible accident.

When I see the flag, I feel emotional every time, even though I disagree with so many of our laws and policies in the country. I know many people feel strongly about our flag and I don't think most people walk by the flag without some kind of emotion.

I feel like this story is a lecture, and the story is far from realistic...I can't imagine a girl saying all these things, it makes the story unenjoyable, for me at least... (sorry, I feel bad saying this, but I do feel strongly about it), too much lecturing, although the idea of the story is wonderful and the story is well-written. I would prefer to come to my own conclusions instead of the directness of this lecture.

I do think people should be responsible and not drive when they shouldn't, these accidents are terrible and mostly preventable. We should spend more time teaching our children in school and at home, about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Oh, my.
I actually cried when I read this.

I'm afraid I have no more words, other than:

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A great piece, with a wonderful message.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person:)

I liked what you brought up about unity. What is a country if it does not have unity? Today, everyone seems to have a sort of self disgust for this country and the people in it. We are constantly against each other. It's sad and disturbing, to a degree. I loved the last sentence.. It reminds me how much good truly is in the world. These things happen, even if this is a fictional event. Thanks for an uplifting and encouraging write:D

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

this is wonderful, i'm crying. Can I show this around my school to discourage drunk driving? (I'll put your name on it of course)

Posted 13 Years Ago

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45 Reviews
Shelved in 3 Libraries
Added on May 18, 2010
Last Updated on May 19, 2010
Tags: Alcohol, Drunk Driving, Grief, Victim, Death


Christina May Shanaberg
Christina May Shanaberg

Mount Vernon, OH

I am a former member of North Shore Writers' Guild in Willoughby OH. I have had numerous poems published and letters. I am, currently, working on a screen play that I hope will interest my cousin-in.. more..


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