Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My First Earth Day

On April 22, 1970, my parents, my brother, and I lived in Houston, Texas. I was a sixth grader at Anderson Elementary School in Westbury. Our PTA bought white roses to plant in a star shape between two of the buildings. Each class was given an empty plastic pill bottle from a pharmacy and we were instructed to write our first name and last name on a narrow slip of paper. My teacher, Mrs. L (aka Cruella deVil) folded it up and squished it into the little clear bottle. She snapped the lid on it and when the office called our class, we all marched out to the flower bed and waited for directions. All the classes stood in lines, waiting, and someone said, "Ten, nine, eight, seven..." We all chimed in and counted down to zero then our teacher dropped the pill bottle in the hole. We marched back to class and went back to our school work. No explanation.

On April 22, 1971, my parents and I were living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A year had passed, the seventies were in full swing (literally) and my Scientific Geography (no kidding, it was really a class) teacher had days before explained how carbon monoxide was polluting the air and possibly killing us, too. He encouraged us not to litter, to walk whenever possible, and probably eat more vegetables... At least someone informed my class what Earth Day represented. So, the next morning, I was riding the school bus to school and someone said, "Hey! We should get off this bus and walk to school!" I am sure we all cheered, but I know that minutes later that bus was empty and we were all standing on the corner as the bus drove away...and left us all in a cloud of exhaust. Thirty minutes later we trucked into school, tardy and probably a little sweaty.

Many years passed and it was April 22, and I was a CHAMPS leader at Douglas Junior High. Together we went to the local nursery and used some of our fund raised money to buy roses to plant in the front of our school. We took turns digging the holes and planting our roses. Until there weren't any CHAMPS left, the roses were watered each week of the growing season by my kids. One day, a truck from a construction company ran over two of the bushes and they died. There is still one rose bush left in front of the school. I look for it whenever I am on campus or I drive by the school.

Earth Days came and went... Sometimes it seemed important and other times it didn't in our country. My own involvement didn't soar after that Earth Day in Oklahoma City. I wish I could say I always recycle, I have a compost pile, and I drive an electric car, but I don't. I can do more. Tomorrow is Earth Day, April 22, 2010. Get off your bus. Plant a rose bush. Recycle. Talk about it. Think about it. Just do something.

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