Thirty-two years ago, I watched as Ryan White prepared to enter Hamilton Heights Middle School. Ryan, a hemophiliac, had contracted HIV while being treated for that disease. For a variety of reasons at the national, state and local levels, many people were misinformed about this deadly disease. It was 1987, and people were scared. When people are scared, people can say and do irrational things.
My family and I, along with the nation, huddled around the TV that evening and watched Ryan’s first day at school. I’ll never forget in a truly made-for-TV moment that girl running up to Ryan and hugging him before he even got to the doors.
As the days turned into weeks, we all learned a lot about HIV and AIDS. As the weeks turned into months, Ryan turned into the face of AIDS education. A few years later, he died. As a kid myself at that time, I was always amazed at his poise, strength and his positive attitude in the face of such incredibly overwhelming circumstances. Ryan showed the world that through conversation, caring and compassion we can learn, heal and move forward as a society. I hope we, as a nation, can continue to remember and teach these lessons to future generations. Thank you, Ryan.
Ken Tucker, Westfield