© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Prairie Diaries': Matt Ybarra

Matt Ybarra
Maeve McGoran, NPR News /
Matt Ybarra

On Oct. 11, 2001, more than 5,000 Kansans took part in a project called "A Day in My Community." Residents kept a diary for a single day, to leave a historical record of their lives at the beginning of the millennium. In the latest story in the Prairie Diaries series, student athlete Matt Ybarra discusses the importance of high school sports in small-town life.

Following is an excerpt of Ybarra's "Prairie Diary" recollecting his day in Kansas, Oct. 11, 2001 -- a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks:

Letter to the Future

To Whom It May Concern:

For what it's worth, here's my two cents.

I am Matthew Jose Ybarra. I am known for being a smart jock. Depending on your mindset, that might be considered an oxymoron. Living in the small hick town of Altamont, Kansas, sports are really our only way of expressing ourselves. Labette County is a quiet area in which the big news always seems to be the weather. That is, until September's tragic occurrence, which I'm sure you've all analyzed and rethought the situation and how we should have reacted enough to make you sick. I'm sure you probably want some insight on how it really played out to a person living through it. I guess I must fulfill your wish.

I've always been counted on to keep cool. I mean, if you don't, who will? So, the news spread through our tiny school of 600, and it seemed every class in the school was in a hallway watching the unfolding of the mass terrorism. Utter chaos was overpowering my comrades of the student body. People were crying but the majority were simply stunned by the news. Their cowboy pride had just been crushed by a combine. WE ARE THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA -- who would dare do this to us?...

On our current living conditions and culture. We live in a house. We eat food. We wear clothes. See, nothing has changed. Now, seriously, the AIDS virus is a big deal. So is premarital sex. Smoking. Drinking. Hopefully, in the future we as a people make better decisions...

I have an average family of five. We are Notre Dame football fans. They're no good this year, but true fans stick with a team...

My favorite book is Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. History and Mathematics are my favorite subjects. My favorite song is "Glycerine" by Bush. My favorite sport is baseball. My favorite food is fettuccine Alfredo. My favorite movie is The Green Mile. I love chess. I have been madly in love with the same girl since second grade.

I am Catholic. I am [planning] to become a priest. This does not make sense with the statement above, but I hope something works out.

I am Mexican. In a predominately white area. I don't pick up that many comments, though. Just between friends you know. I'm the third generation in America. My grandpa crossed the border and gave us a better life. He lived to be one hundred. He was only greedy one time. We asked him on his 100th birthday what he would wish for and he replied, "Another hundred." Almost without thinking. I loved that man...

Feel free to write back from the future if you have the time. But, please, tell me that I see Notre Dame win a couple national championships...

Always yours,

Matt "Roma" Ybarra

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.