“Third year, B class,” I thought, overjoyed. I was now an “Abel Bravo man.” I remembered distinctly what my stepfather had told me and how he had expressed genuine interest in my well being giving words of support. At the time, any words of support was all I needed to continue. More than money or any school supplies, his words reached my very soul when I most needed the lift.
Things were going well, and I thanked God for all the help end encouragement I was receiving in those moments. I had been following my routine at home waiting for the arrival of the first day of classes for the school year 1953. In fact, I celebrated my seveteenth birthday alongside my baby brother, and hadn’t cared much if anyone remembered it. Those days had been crucial to my ego because I could resist wanting to go out to shop around the streets of Colon.
When that first day of school at Colegio Abel Bravo arrived, I found myself joining the other students crammed tightly into the courtyard near the flagpole. From there I would have no problem finding my homeroom class to which I had been assigned. But first, the students prepared to entone the Colegio Abel Bravo school hymn and a hardy tune of appreciation to the teachers who were to accompany the ceremonial hoisting of our beloved Panamanian flag.
I was deeply moved, I had to admit. Especially the words
“¡De la Patria seremos antorcha, que ilumine la sombra falaz!.” (From the Homeland we will be the torch, illuminating the treacherous shadow!)”
Those words, so dear to my sincere, patriotic spirit, and sung in unison by all the returning students, touched me to the core and I decided right then to learn every word and their meanings correctly. During the brief moments before we were dispatched to our home rooms I found myself panning across that schoolyard admiring the notable assembly of students who had, with such dignity, rendered their first Abel Bravo assembly.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I surveyed the faces of my classmates who were mostly of Westindian descent. The entire image stayed burned in my memory as a benchmark, if only to keep them in mind in case we ever strayed from each other, I would be able to recognize them when I found them.
But, despite my impressions at the moment, I did spy a Westindian boy who seemed very familiar to me from back in Panama City. Instantly I began calculating where I had seen this boy only to meet the averting stares of this strangely nervous boy. Finally, I remembered the little worm when he lowered his eyes to the ground to think fast what his next move would be.
While reading his emotions, I could tell the boy felt cornered and didn’t know what to do.
This story continues.