Jalena Keane-Lee
Jalena Keane-Lee

Today, April 19, 2013, is my 18th birthday. Yesterday I ventured from Berkeley to Boston on a week-long college tour. The plan was to travel to Boston and New York to celebrate my birthday and visit Wellesley and Barnard colleges. With the lockdown of this city, my plans have been put on hold.  Sitting in my uncle’s house in Boston, in the midst of the rumors, suspects and shoot-outs, I can’t help but wonder how many more people will be ushered into adulthood in a sea of violence.

I was born the day of the Oklahoma City bombings. How many more times will we have to hear about bombings or shootings; how many more innocent lives will we lose?

As this city and our country mourns the loss of an 8-year-old boy, a 29-year-old woman and a 23-year-old foreign exchange student, I can’t help but think about the Palestinian, Afghani, Congolese and Syrian children, adults and loved ones killed every day.

As I watch the news, confined inside, on my first day of adulthood, I’ve been left to reflect on what it means to be an adult in America. Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick talked about the sense of civic duty and ideals that unite us as Americans. I think it’s more than that; it’s a shared history that unites us all. A history that impacts each thing we do every single day, whether we know it or not.

Shelter in place sign in Boston. Photo: courtesy JConline.com

With my birthday I inherited a day of great atrocities and revolutionary change. April 19 is the day of the Waco, Texas, 51-day siege, the Oklahoma City bombing and now the first city-wide lockdown in history. Today is also the day of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, the start of the Palestinian uprising, the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the South Korean student pro-democracy movement. April 19 is a day of horrors and heroics. This history is something we all share.

We can’t control the history we inherit, but we can impact the future. We have a choice, we can either get mired in hatred and fear or be inspired by the great potential for change and revolution that we all have.

I am proud to have been born on April 19, and I can’t help but wonder if this was the push we needed to reclaim our civic responsibilities and transform our great nation.

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Jalena Keane-Lee is a senior at Berkeley High School who is currently with her cousins near Boston, Mass.
Jalena Keane-Lee is a senior at Berkeley High School who is currently with her cousins near Boston, Mass.