alexandrawangswriting

Here are my poems and short stories


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New Stories from an Old Newspaper

The character Atticus Finch makes a statement to his young daughter Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This statement proved true when I made friends with an old couple living in my building.

Most people in the building don’t like them. The wife spends her days feeding pigeons in the neighborhood. Her husband never leaves the apartment. Sometimes I would hear his shouting in the hallway.

My other neighbors warned me about this old couple. They said: “Stay away from that old woman. She is crazy and dirty. Her husband is nuts.” As a little girl, I listened to these statements. I avoided this couple. To be truthful, I was afraid of them.
I often saw the wife on the street. She was bent over and wearing a ripped gray jacket with lots of stains on it. She was feeding pigeons from a bag filled with bird seed. My neighbors would shout at her, telling her she was contaminating the area. I was so disturbed by these scenes and her shabby appearance.

But my parents explained to me that she was actually a nice lady and that our neighbors should be more tolerant of her eccentric behavior. They explained that the couple were Holocaust survivors and had a hard life. My mother said: “When people have to fight to survive, they become different.”

One day, on my way home from school, I ran into my nemesis, a neighbor who was the school bully. This girl never missed the chance to pick on me. I guess I was an easy target. I had a speech problem that affected the way I spoke. It was hard to defend myself. The bully was having a field day abusing me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my elderly neighbor approaching. She was walking so slowly. Finally she reached us. “You leave that girl alone,” she shouted at the bully. It worked! The bully was actually frightened of the old lady. She ran away and left me alone.

I was so surprised. When people shouted at her for feeding birds, she never said a word to defend herself. It made me wonder why she would protect me from a bully when she never protected herself against the harsh criticisms of others. Now, she turned to me and spoke: “I see you a lot. But you always run away from me. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I am misunderstood by others, just like you.” Then, she turned away and went back to feeding her pigeons. As I stood there, she turned back to me again. “Don’t listen to what others say. You should find out for yourself.”

Suddenly, my elderly neighbor no longer looked like a dark figure. She seemed more like a lone bird herself. I gave her my friendliest smile. She continued to speak. “A long time ago, people listened to rumors about my people and many of my people suffered,” she said. “When I was about your age, my whole family was killed and I had to escape. I feed pigeons because I know what it is like to be hungry. Like everybody else pigeons have the right to live. Who are we to say who should live or die?” Her voice was soft as the flapping of a pigeon’s wings. As my hands shook and tears came to my eyes, the face of my watch looked like a six-pointed star.

A few days later, I visited her and met her husband. Like his wife, he was a Holocaust survivor. He had been injured and could barely walk. That was the reason he never left the apartment. When he got up from the sofa, he looked like an old creased newspaper that was being unfolded. He said: “The Nazis didn’t let me take my sister with me on the train because she was too young. Later I found out they murdered her.” Each sentence of our conversation revealed another terrible secret.
He turned to me and said: “My wife told me our neighbor bullies you. Remember, when someone does something to you, it has more to do with them than it has to do with you.” I realized that he was right. My fear of my elderly neighbors was more about me than about them. Speaking with them was like finding an old newspaper in the attic with the words still fresh and meaningful. I was a kid listening to their stories about their own childhood. I could walk around in their skin and then judge them as the wise, kind and wonderful people that they are.

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Margaret Corbin Stamp Proposal

UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE
POSTAGE STAMP PROPOSAL

 

MARGARET CORBIN: AMERICA’S FIRST HEROINE
By
Alexandra Wang

 

Margaret Corbin, born in America in 1751, joined the fight for freedom along with her husband John. The couple fought valiantly, side-by-side at the Battle of Fort Washington in New York City on November 16, 1776. During the battle, John fell to Hessian troops. Margaret continued the fight until the surrender of the fort.

Margaret (Molly) Cochran Corbin, first heroine of the American Revolution

NEW YORK CITY AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

By 1776, the rebels had become the Continental Army under General George Washington. After initial clashes between the Patriots and the British, Americans began to fortify the City of New York. The city stood between New England, the driving force behind the revolution and the south, their supply base. The battle for New York would make or break the struggle for freedom. Around 28,500 men had gathered in New York to oppose the British. The patriots were determined to hold the city in spite of the overwhelming Tory population.

FORT WASHINGTON & THE PATRIOT DEFENSE OF NEW YORK

The British, who had both English and German troops under their command, felt that the waterways surrounding the city would play to British naval supremacy. The patriots had constructed Fort Washington along the western side of Manhattan commanding heights opposite Fort Constitution (late called Fort Lee) on the New Jersey shore across the Hudson. The placement was designed to allow Washington to catch British ships in a crossfire if they attempted to sail up the Hudson. Sunken hulks were added to the river to impede British ships. But British naval supremacy showed the forts were no obstacle to their ships when two British ships, the Phoenix and the Rose, sailed up the Hudson.

Fort Washington on the western edge of Manhattan on the Hudson River

Major-General Nathaniel Greene opposed defending the city. He wrote to Washington on September 5, 1776:

Two-thirds of the property of the City of New York and the suburbs belong to the tories. We have no very great reason to run any considerable risk for its defense…I would give it as my opinion that a general and speedy retreat is absolutely necessary, and the honor and interest of America require it. I would burn the city.”

On October 16, 1776, Washington finally decided to leave Manhattan Island. He decided to leave a garrison of 2,800 men and a large amount of supplies at Fort Washington under Colonel Robert Magaw. He believed that if necessary, the fort could be quickly evacuated. Magaw wrote to Nathaniel Greene on November 8, 1776:

If we can not prevent vessels passing up, and the enemy are possessed of the surrounding country, what valuable purpose can it answer to hold a position which the expected benefit can not be had?

Washington replied:

…as you are on t he spot, [I] leave it up to you to give such orders as to evacuating Mount Washington as you judge best.

Greene was convinced that evacuation from Fort Washington could be easily achieved. He wrote back:

I cannot conceive the garrison to be in any great danger…the men can be brought off at any time….I was over there last evening; the enemy seems to be disposing matters to besiege the place, but Colonel Magaw thinks it will take them till December expires before they can carry it.

British General William Howe now prepared an attack on Fort Washington designed to hit the Americans from three different directions with an overwhelming force. The troops attacked the triple line of defensive works that Washington’s men had constructed in September. Hessians advanced from the north under Von Knyphausen. British troops made a landing from the Harlem River to the east under Cornwallis and Mathew. Their landing was covered by guns on Fordham Heights. From the south side, Percy led two columns against the Americans: one British and one Hessian. From the Hudson to the west, the Pearl bombarded American positions.

 

Among the American defenders at Fort Washington was John Corbin, a farmer from Virginia. John had married Margaret Cochran in 1772. Margaret had been born in Pennsylvania on November 12, 1751. Robert Cochran and Sarah Cochran were her parents. Her father, Robert Cochran had been killed and her mother, Sarah Cochran was kidnapped by Native Americans in 1756. Margaret and her brother John were raised by their uncle.

When the Revolution started John enlisted with Margaret Corbin in the Continental Army. John loaded and fired cannons, and Margaret took care of the soldiers like the other women did.

On November 15, 1776, Howe stated he would put the garrison at Fort Washington to the sword if they did not surrender. Washington had one more chance to evacuate his troops across the Hudson to Fort Lee but he delayed and enemy troops began their advance and the Americans quickly moved back as Howe advanced.

John Corbin was among the American defenders of Fort Washington. He was a sapeur, a man who swabbed the barrel of the cannon after it had been fired. This action was necessary to clean out excess gunpowder that might explode prematurely and to cool down the cannon barrel. During the action against the defenders at Fort Washington, John Corbin was hit and killed. Immediately, Margaret ran to take her husband’s place at the cannon.

 

Molly Corbin in action at the Battle of Fort Washington

As the fighting continued, Margaret was hit. She suffered serious wounds to her arm, chest and jaw.

British troops inflicted 150 casualties before the Americans surrendered. The remainder of the garrison were taken prisoner. They were marched down to the infamous prison ships at the foot of Manhattan. Here, most of the men would die of disease and starvation.

 

The Hudson River with Fort Lee on the NJ bank and Fort Washington on the NY bank

Margaret was evacuated from the city on a horse-drawn cart. It took three days along bumpy roads for her transport to the patriot stronghold of Philadelphia.

The campaign for New York was over. The city was lost. Howe, newly knighted, would spend the winter in New York before resuming action in the spring. That spring, a small force under Governor Tryon was all that was needed on the Hudson. Today, the beautiful park where Margaret Corbin and the patriots fought is named after the last English Civil Governor. Margaret Corbin has a traffic circle and a drive through that park named in her honor.

The sign marking the entrance to Fort Tryon Park at Margaret Corbin Circle

Margaret never recovered fully from her wounds. She was disfigured and disabled The Executive Council of Pennsylvania gave her thirty dollars as aid on June 29, 1779.

A plaque, describes Margaret Corbin’s heroic actions during the Battle of Fort Washington.

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A plaque commemorating the heroism of Molly Corbin in Fort Tryon Park
Later the Congress’s Board of War also recognized Margaret’s bravery and loyalty. They gave her a pension which was half the income of a soldier in the Continental Army on July 6, 1779. The Continental Army discharged her in 1783. Margaret was the first woman to have a military pension in the United States.

On January 16, 1800 Margaret died in New York at age forty eight. The Daughters of The American Revolution had Margaret reburied in West Point Cemetery. She is one of the only soldiers of The American Revolution to be buried in West Point.

 

Margaret Corbin’s grave marker at West Point

Margaret died without descendants. In 2011, her name was finally added to the role of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

She continues to be an unsung daughter of the American Revolution, commonly confused with Molly Pitcher, also of Pennsylvania.

A United States Postage Stamp honoring Margaret Corbin will allow with American daughter, the first patriot of our country, to receive long-overdue recognition to the fight for freedom.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hakim, Joy. From Colonies to Country 1731-1791: The History of US. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003.

McEvedy, Colin. The Penguin Atlas of North American History to 1870. London, England: Penguin Group, 1988.

Palmer, David Richard and James W. Stryker. Early American Wars and Military Institutions: The West Point Military History Series. Wayne, NJ: Avery Publishing Group, 1986.

Schecter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the Revolution. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2003.

Smith, David. New York 1776: The Continentals’ First Battle. Oxford, UK: Osprey Press, 2008.

 


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A Day Inside a Carbon Atom

There once was a day,
Every thing seemed okay,
Until I shrank to a small size,
As I shrank no one could hear my cries.

I met a group of protons,
Then a group of electrons,
I asked them “What is this place?
They told me I was trapped inside a carbon atom in my pillowcase!
I asked “What is a carbon atom?”
They said “With you we will share our wisdom.”

This is Carbon, also known as “C”,
In the nucleus six protons charged positively,
And six electrons charged negatively,
Orbiting the nucleus,
All of life contains this.

About electrons there’s more to tell,
Two in the inner shell
And four on the outer shell,

With the atomic number of six,
This is in all pillow case fabrics.

FYI, I really don’t know much about Chemistry! I wrote this poem for extra credit.


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Raindrops Flood My Broken Heart

I have been here with five years of rain,
Looking out of the window and seeing pain,
The sky is gray day after day,
Seeing the sun I have to pay.

Locked in a dark closet with no path,
Going out there is like taking a bath,
When the sun is out the other children play,
I have nothing to say,
With flowers blooming up,
Sunset rising is like gold in a cup.