Nine-year-old Anastasia Somoza caught President Clinton by surprise on national television with a plea that her severely disabled twin sister be allowed in a regular classroom.
"We're twins and we love each other," the youngster explained Monday at her family's cramped apartment, three days after taking part in the town meeting for about 40 kids at the White House.Anastasia and her identical twin, Alba, have cerebral palsy and use wheelchairs. Alba cannot walk or talk and communicates through a computer. But the girls have the same high IQs, their mother said.
"People who don't know her don't understand her," Anastasia said. "When she makes a sound they don't know what she wants. They don't know she's smart."
After Anastasia's appearance on television, it became known that the girls are the great-granddaughters of Anastasio Somoza, the dictator who ruled Nicaragua from 1936 until his assassination 20 years later.
Their father, Gerardo Somoza, 36, was disinherited by his family after he married the girls' Irish-born mother, Mary.
The twins travel together by bus to their public school. But once there, Anastasia goes to a regular classroom and Alba goes to a special-education classroom.
"I would like her to be in a regular classroom just like me," Anastasia told Clinton, who was left momentarily speechless. When she was through, Clinton led the applause and thanked her for "sticking up for your sister."
The community school board superintendent, Anthony J. Alvarado, said Monday that Alba's case was being reviewed.
Mrs. Somoza, 45, said she had no idea that Anastasia would ask the question. She said the twins have had an unusual bond since birth.
"Anastasia is very protective of her sister," Mrs. Somoza said. "Alba can't speak, and there are times when I can't communicate with her. Anastasia will tell me what's bothering Alba and I'll ask her, `How do you know?' She just says, `She told me.' "
Mrs. Somoza is an adviser to Mayor David Dinkins and Gov. Mario Cuomo on disabled children, particularly on the issue of giving them the means to learn in a regular classroom.
The twins live with their parents, an older brother and a younger sister on Manhattan's West Side.
Their father, a free-lance celebrity photographer, is the son of Luis Somoza, who stepped in as Nicaragua's president after his father was killed. Gerardo Somoza moved to the United States with his mother when he was 12.