Tuning Up - Autumn 2023

The Days After

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Remembering Samantha Smith, the girl who dared to dream of peace at a time when so many feared a global war

By Wendy Fontaine | September 5, 2023
Illustration by Matt Rota
Illustration by Matt Rota

I might have been sleeping when her plane crashed. Or maybe I was awake, listening to heavy rain pound the roof of my family’s mobile home. I might have been under the covers, snuggling with my cat or plotting the last few days of summer vacation before the start of sixth grade. My last thought before drifting off to sleep might have been about the outfit I planned to wear on the first day of school, a lemon-yellow top with pink stripes and a flipped-up collar, a pair of round yellow earrings to match.

The next morning, when I heard on the news that Samantha Smith had died, I pictured her on the plane as it was going down. Her body tense as her seat violently shook. Her eyes stretching wide with fear and confusion. Her fists clutching the seat in front of her as the aircraft sliced through the forest, then exploded between the pines.

In my mind, she died wearing the same outfit I’d planned for the first day of school.

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