My Invisible Army

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.(Common App)

Here’s a sob story for you: my father died when I was four. My mother has always been legally blind, but shortly after my father’s death, when I was six, she fell and broke her back. Two years later, she had a brain hemotoma and nearly passed away. But this is not the story of how the fates were pitted against me and I survived; this is the story of how I discovered the support structure that has been the underpinning of my entire life.

I sat in my Venice hotel room perusing “Italian for Dummies.” I flipped the pages, nervously memorizing the last entries of the common phrases section. The phone rang. My heart skipped a beat as I picked it up. “Allo Mr. Mandese, your family is here to see you.” There was something in his voice that indicated uneasiness about sending fifteen Sicilians to my room. “Send them up,” I said. I stood by the door wondering what they would think of me. In a matter of seconds I was going to meet fifteen members of my family whom I had not seen since I was three months old. The only thing we shared was a love for my father, who had passed away 11 years earlier. I opened the door to a flood of tears and smiles. My uncle Lilo hugged me so hard that I couldn’t breathe, and my aunt Tina gave me such big kisses...

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