Nonfiction in response to Peace, Justice and Strong Insitution
Part 3: Family
By Grace Muresan
It was hours and hours before anything at all happened. The winds died down a little, so the teachers went and brought food. But Mrs. White said that it was calm only because the eye of the hurricane was passing over us, and that it would rage again in an hour or so. After all of us ate, most of the kids picked up activities to pass the time. They played games, talked, read, someone even did homework. After an hour of chewing my fingernails, I finally got up the courage to talk to Mrs. White again. I looked up at her sharp features nervously. “May I call my parents?”
She smiled. “Absolutely. To make sure they’re safe and to let them know you are.”
Taking out her phone, she asked, “Your mom or your dad?”
“Alright.” She handed the device to me, and I dialed my mom’s number and listened to the foreboding buzz.
Sitting on a bed reserved for the sick, I learned what true fear meant. I was in utter, traumatized terror as I sat there waiting for something -anything- the storm to pass, and to see my family again. If anything all I wanted was to hear Georgia’s voice again. A little while after I got to the hurricane shelter, I went into shock. Apparently as soon as I arrived, after the checkup in the ambulance, my heart rate went crazy and I passed out. I woke up to a fellow hurricane refugee who was a nurse fanning my face, waiting for me to open my eyes. “What’s your name and what happened to you, sweetie?”
I rubbed my eyes wearily. My bruises and cuts hurt more than they had before, and my head had a sort of ache I had only felt that time I broke my leg 4 years ago.
“My name’s Flora. I was in PE at school during the hurricane.” I told her.
“A branch crashed through the window of the gym and knocked me out.”
“We had to evacuate because the building started flooding, so my teacher carried me out.”
“We were swept away and separated and my unconscious body made it to the boardwalk.”
“Dang! Child, do you know how close you were to drowning?!? How close you were to being another casualty that is just part of a statistic?!” She threw down a small towel she had been holding. “If you’re anywhere near danger, you run immediately, okay? No waiting for anything or anyone!” She paused to rub her forehead. All of a sudden she turned to me again and put her hand on mine. “I don’t know you, kid, but I know you’re as brave as they come and I’ll make it my mission to get you back to your family.”
I nodded and gave a little smile to reassure her and myself. I wasn’t sure if I had a family to get back to anymore.
The phone kept ringing. Mrs. White wrung her hands, staring at my expression, more worry lines creasing her face every second that passed. I didn’t know what to do.
Finally the prerecorded message. “Hi! It’s Jessie. I’m not available to take your call right now, but leave a message and I’ll get back to you!”
I handed the phone back to Mrs. White, feeling numb. “I’m sure your parents are ok-
“It’s fine.” I mumbled, interrupting her. “I’m okay.”
“Do you wanna try your dad?”
Mom worked at the same place dad does. If mom was carried away by the hurricane or had to evacuate, dad probably was gone too.
“No. My sister.”
“Oh, Flora? Ok.”
She handed the phone to me. I had never memorized her number, but my finger flew over the buttons as I suddenly recalled it.
The phone only buzzed twice. Her voice cracked as she spoke. “Who is this?”
“Not really, but... I’m in a hurricane shelter now. Are you at school safe?”
“Yes. I’m calling through Mrs. White’s phone.”
“Did you get a reply from mom or dad? I tried them both but got to voicemail.”
“Same. Just hang on, okay? When this blows over we will find them, I promise.”
Flora laughed over the phone. “Usually I’d be the one assuring you, you know.”
But when the hurricane really stopped, that’s when things went wrong. First of all, our house was destroyed - utterly obliterated- by the hurricane. That means everything gone. Documents, personal items, the walls had collapsed on themselves and there was almost nothing left. Almost funnily had we been seeing this on the news through a screen and it not being out house, only a toilet was left standing.
Secondly, all Georgia and I had left was each other and the clothes on our backs, plus I had my phone and she had her backpack. We didn’t know where we could stay, who to turn to- oh yeah. That brings me to the last part.
After search parties and helicopter rescues and days of staying in the hurricane shelter, Mrs. White’s home, my aunt’s home in a distant city, and the nurse I had met at the shelter’s home, once everything had settled (for some),
We still hadn’t found our parents.
It was weeks before we received any news about them. We had searched through the rubble of our home but could only recover the safe which held a couple thousand dollars in cash. We didn’t know what to do with it, so we got our aunt to take it for safekeeping. Finally, on a random day that was ironically sunny, Flora got a call from an unknown number.
“Hello?” She said.
Flora was confused at first, but I recognized that voice immediately. I snatched the phone from her. “MOM!!!!” I shrieked.
“Georgia! Are you two safe? I’m at a hurricane shelter near home. Who are you with? It’s been weeks! Are you guys okay? Is the house alright?”
“We’re okay. We’re staying with Aunt Madison and my teacher, Mrs. White. The house though…”
“What? Was it a little damaged?”
“There’s… nothing left…”
“Oh no… Well, at least you and Flora and dad are safe. If you can, please ask Mrs. White or Madison to take you here. I need to see you guys!”
“Ok. Mom, I missed you too. Everything is gonna be okay.”
She laughed almost bitterly.
“Usually I’d be the one saying that.”
“Flora said that too.”
Finally we got ahold of mom. I was so glad she was okay, but just because we had our parents again didn’t mean our lives could be salvaged. As soon as we arrived at the shelter mom and dad ran out. Immediately they grabbed us – not to hug us, but to inspect our limbs and make sure we were okay. “Mom!” I hugged her. “Thank the Heavens you’re okay!” Then she hugged Mrs. White. “Thank you, thank you so much for keeping our children safe!” Dad hugged me too, and said the same to Mrs. White.
But the real issue was: Where would we live now?
Our government might not be perfect, but we would still be homeless without their systems. For a couple weeks we had to stay with Aunt Madison, but Mom contacted the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and we got temporary housing farther from the coast. And when our insurance fell short of the costs to buy a new house, they provided loans with low interest.
Despite this, all of the documentation was lost. It took a couple days of our family separated for officials to process data to prove that we were a family. But it worked out in the end, I guess. If we were living in a different country or didn’t have insurance, would we be reunited at all? Some places don’t provide help after natural disasters.
But at least we could end up still a family. God Bless America!