The Little Rock Nine gathers again at Central High School in 1987 for a commemorative event and are welcomed by future President Bill Clinton, who is governor of Arkansas at this time. The Little Rock Nine now lives all over the world and all of them have successful careers. All of them have children and they bring their children to the event. Melba feels that their relationships with one another have not changed. For Melba, meeting them again is a rediscovery of a part of herself with which she has lost touch. Still, all of the “pomp and circumstance” at the event “does not numb the pain” of re-entering Central High.
Despite how many years have passed and how much has changed, both personally and politically, Melba still feels the impact of the trauma that she suffered while at Central. In a way, she remains frozen in time. Though she has not seen the other members of the Little Rock Nine since the fifties, they still seem to be friends. Reuniting with them makes her feel like her old teenage self, which is both reassuring, for she has not forgotten where she comes from, and painful.
Reporters ask what it was like at Central and how Little Rock has changed. The town has its first black woman mayor. Her brother, Conrad, is the first and only black captain of the Arkansas State Troopers—the same troopers who tried to keep her from entering Central High. A reporter says that Governor Faubus released a statement saying, if he could do it all over again, “he’d do the same thing.” Terrence Roberts quips, if they could do it all over again, they, too, would do the same thing. When it is time to re-enter the school, Melba has a mild panic attack. The doors swing open and an impeccably-dressed black student emerges to greet them. He announces himself as president of the student body.
Melba’s hometown no longer feels like the place where she grew up—one in which black people had to be careful not to step over the line that separated them from whites. The new Little Rock is not only a place where black people are included in civic life, but where they are essential to it. The city has abandoned the old values of segregationists like Governor Faubus, despite his stubborn resistance to admitting that he was on the wrong side of history, while the Little Rock Nine was on the right side.