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!!

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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 12 Years Ago

4 of 4 people found this review constructive.


Amazing! Powerful and wonderful. Excellent way to drive a point and a plea home. What a great and strong piece.

Posted 12 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

This is a 2+ on the tear meter... It brings a tear to both eyes.

Posted 12 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Very powerful.

Posted 12 Years Ago

2 of 3 people found this review constructive.

This was very powerful. I could strongly visualize everything that happened in this story. Good job on this piece.

Posted 12 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

I loved this piece. Your ability to tell a story is entertaining, always fun to read work from you.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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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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