The only light came from the moon. The chatter and chaos that reigned an hour ago had ceased. The school track sat quietly that cool April night, waiting.
A bagpipe slowly whined Amazing Grace. A kilted man calmly placed one foot in front of the other, gliding around the oval track. As he passed, I struck my match, covered it with my hand, reached into the white paper bag at my feet and held the flame to the candle wick.
Suddenly, the world was a blur. It finally clicked.
• • •
King High School, which hosts the only all-high school student Relay For Life event in Florida, raised more than $100,000 last year to help prevent and find a cure for cancer. The event is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
Every Relay For Life holds a Luminaria Ceremony at nightfall. Each bag bears the name of someone who is either surviving cancer or has lost the fight.
I was never sure where I got my enthusiasm to participate in the relay. No one in my immediate family had cancer. Two of my relatives and a couple of my parents' friends had it, but I did not know them very well.
Yet, I was excited to be a team captain, urging my team to turn in forms on time and raise money. Ours was the first team registered online with all forms turned in. Sure, there was quite a bit of bossing around and bribing with brownies, but I got the job done.
• • •
The track smelled like grease from the burgers of the team next to us. They turned off their grill once the lights went out.
My candle was lit. I lit six more. When I finished, I saw that the pipe player had glided to the other side of the track. One by one, the glowing bags spread around the track. The light washed into a ring with a soft, golden glow. The piper finished, and all was silent.
I looked into the stadium stands. The bleachers were quiet. Luminarias slowly lit, first forming straight lines, then recognizable shapes.
They spelled the words "hope" and "cure."
I relayed not for the glory of putting it on my college application. I relayed not for the pride of saying my team got it together the quickest.
I relayed for society's dream.
One day, we will find a cure. For now, all we can do is hope.
Xi Yu, 17 is in 11th grade at Tampa's King High School, which will host its fourth annual Relay For Life on Saturday and Sunday. For information on other local events, go to www.events.cancer.org/
rflkinghsfl. Xi wrote this essay for the High School Journalism Program at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg.