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Until the Night Came
September 7, 1900
My daddy gave me this diary for my birthday. He wants me to practice reading and writing, since we can’t afford college on a sailor’s wage. It’s a slight strange talking to a book, but I’m not gonna let money go to waste. My name is Antonia Parker, though most folks just call me Anne. I am the eldest of five children, my brother Thomas is thirteen, James is eight and the middle child, then lastly is Alex and Nic (the twins). My daddy is a sailor on the Baunita, so we live three or so blocks from the coast, next to the Clines. Ally Mae Cline is my best friend.
I just turned fourteen today, though I don’t look it in the least. My hair is jet black and always sticks up straight like in the back, and my eye’s look like those tiger eyes stones that you can buy at the general store. Personally, I think that I’m far too tall and thin to be fourteen; but everyone tells me otherwise.
I’m a bit terrified, I can hear Mr. Cline and his brother, Joseph, arguing from my window, but I didn’t catch on what. It’s sweltering outside today; if I had any extra money (which I don’t) I’d take the boys’ to Murdoch’x or the Pagoda bathhouse. I’m doing the dishes with one hand and writing with the other. Across the street from our house is the orphanage; I don’t like to think about it much, though. They always look so sad, the kids I mean, they don’t never smile lest play with each other.
Daddy just got home; James has been on a rant all day, saying that the waves are going screwy and that something ain’t right. Daddy hushed him right quick and said that unless Mr. Cline says something then we have none to worry. But, I can’t help but do just that, something ain’t right in those waves. Today, I was walking along the shore and when I looked at the water I saw a dead girls face! Then, course I blinked and it was gone but, still.
And who’s to say that I should trust Mr. Cline? Just because he’s the weatherman doesn’t mean that he’s God. Admittedly, I am a slight jealous of Ally Mae; she always has the prettiest lilac dresses and the prettiest hair and then I’m wearing my mama’s old dresses and shift with my hair falling to my shoulders. I wish that my daddy had a lot of money, and that I could wear pretty dresses too.
September 8, 1900
I woke up this morning and the sky was black! BLACK! Like the night took the morning’s shift and morning left on vacation. It’s raining like none else and the lightning is scaring Nic and Alex silly. I hate Mr. Cline! I HATE HIM! He’s the weatherman, why didn’t he tell us sooner? Oh no- daddy’s shipped out this morning! He’s on the open sea in this! Oh Christ, have mercy on this family and please don’t let it get worse.
It’s about six o’clock. The weather got so bad that we had to stay with the Cline’s. I don’t feel guilty none, though; half of the neighborhood is crammed in the back room. I’m writing by candlelight, and I don’t think that I can stop writing. If I stop, my hands shake so violent-like that I can’t stop ‘em!
All of the ladies here are holding rosaries in their hands and looking out the window with vacant stares. I feel like some kind of monster is gonna come through the window and pull us out of the safe place. Tomas must feel the same way, because is hiding under my chair. James, Nic and Alex are all sitting in a huddle and making sniffling noises. All of the other children are in hysterics; screaming and crying. There are almost no men here; they were all at work when this storm started, and almost all of them are sailors or crewmen.
Mrs. Cline just started screaming; she looked out the window and wailed that the water was seven feet off of the ground and that someone was floating in the water. Her words sent a chill down my spine, what if that’s us next? Someone happens to poke out of their window and see Anne Parker floating in the water outside. My writing is getting smudge like now, the roof and walls are leaking and it’s dripping on my head.
Something just snapped, and it’s not my pen.
I don’t know what time it is now, but I’m backed up against a wall and sitting on the top of a dresser. Most sane folks would’ve stopped writing in something as silly as a note book by now; but I can’t stop. I fear that I am going to die! Rosemary, the Cline’s youngest, is screaming bloody murder and she has reason to; the water is up to our knees now. The floor closest to the rest of the house is completely gone, and fifty some people are in the water. My brothers are all lined up against the wall and crying.
It’s the devil’s vengeance now; the dresser that I had been sitting on has just been sucked into the current with me on top. Everyone now, even the Clines, is in the water and thrashing with all they have. Tomas, Nic and Alex are in the water too. James is holding to me real tight. I keep hearing the most terrifying noises; I hear the cables on bridges snap, I hear the buildings get ripped ‘part by the water and I hear screaming. So much screaming.
Tomas managed to paddle back inside and grab a mattress; so all of the Parkers and me are floating on it now. The water has torn us from everyone else, people I have never seen before are poking their heads out of the water and gasping for breath, children are screaming for their mama’s and daddy’s, and old women are yelling bible verses.
A scruffy man just tried to take this mattress from us; he climbed on and told us to get. He looked so crazy, that man, so crazy that he scared us. But, just as quickly as he jumped on he fell back into the water.
I don’t see Nic nowhere, it got real dark a moment ago and then when the lightning flashed he was gone! Tomas jumped into the water real fast to go and look for him; he said that he’d be back soon. I wanted to protest, but I didn’t know how to talk anymore; I could only scream.
The storm is getting angrier. A huge tide just washed away our house, and I still don’t know where Nic or Tomas are. I have never been this scared in my whole life; the worst is that I can’t tell if it’ll stop. And if it don’t I don’t wanna die yet! I’m only fourteen, and I haven’t even kissed a boy yet! I know that I’m gonna die tonight, though, there must be 4 thousand people in the water. Least half are dead. They probably didn’t wanna die either; doesn’t mean that God didn’t take them anyway. I just hope that I’m not next.
The water just washed us past the orphanage. Everyone was dead; even the nuns. The only children left were three small boys who were hanging to an uprooted tree.
I’m writing by nothing but lightning flashes now, the waves have stopped some. But, as of right now the entire city of Galveston was underwater.
September 9, 1900
I woke up today under a pile of wood. Nic helped pull the planks off me and helped me to my feet. His eyes were red and blotchy and his voice was real weak. He said that Tomas, Alex and James were dead; and that he had found them earlier. I’m gonna miss them real bad.
Nic and me tried to help in ways that we could; helping pull people out from under boats and houses and throwing driftwood into piles. There were only a couple constables on duty and most of them didn’t care what we did, just as long as we did it quietly.
A man who had lived in our neighborhood told us that six thousand folks were summed up as dead. It made my heart burn to think that two of my brothers were part of that number, maybe daddy was too.
Everywhere it smelled bad; there must have been a hundred some pyres burning that day. It smelled like dead people everywhere that you went and even if you didn’t smell it, you could still see it. At the orphanage was the saddest; apparently all of the nuns had tried to save the children and keep them together, so they tied the children to themselves. Ten nuns and ninety children died, the only survivors of the orphanage tragedy were the three boys that I had seen last night.
Nic and I just walked around Galveston for the longest time. There weren’t even houses anymore, there were only stacks of wood and brick. Little children wandered around looking for their parents, and dogs poked their noses underneath wood piles, searching for their owners.
Nic and me spent the whole day looking for daddy. There was no point to it really; we were rindin’ on some crazy idea that we’d look in the right place and he’d pop right out behind a tree and wrap us in big bear hugs. But after today we learned not to trust trees.
While we had been looking for daddy we ran into the Clines. I had never seen Mr.Cline so crazy looking; his hair was disheveled, he reeked of salt and seaweed and his eyes were so deranged looking that I thought he would kill me. Only to find out that he and his kids had spent the whole day looking for Mrs. Cora May, his wife. She got swept up like in a wave and they hadn’t been able to find her. I saw Ally Mae today too; I couldn’t help but laugh a little. She looked more worse off than I did; her perfect hair was drenched and crusted with sea salt, her pretty lilac dress was faded from the water and her eyes were hound looking, all big and sad.
That night was scary. No one had a home to go back too, so everyone had to sleep outside. It wasn’t even so much that we didn’t like being outside or the fact that the skeeters were eating us ‘live. It was the fact that there was no daddy or Alex or Tomas to comfort us. And we definitely needed comfortin’, we were sleeping right next to dead folks. What if another storm came, a storm even meaner and nastier than before? And what if we didn’t get through this time? Would that mean that I’d be alone if Nic died? Or him if I died? He ain’t got no one but me, it’d be different if we had relatives somewhere in Dallas, but daddy came here from Ireland, and our closest kin lives in Wisconsin. Nic would probably get a job or something to pay for a ship ticket to take him someplace, he’d probably have to go to Houston.
Over my dead body my baby brother would go to Houston, in the company of all them oilmen and miners and cowboys. He’d just as soon join a gang as run off to Houston.
Right now I’m writing by the light from the stars. Even after what happened yesterday, today was a beautiful and clear sunny day. It was like God had decided to give us a little grace, either that or he just thought that it’d be funny to see a good day after a bad.
I’m gonna go to sleep now. Me and Nic found a nice vacant lot to camp for the night.
September 10, 1900
There’s still no news of daddy. There’s no one here helping us either. No one from Washington or the government here to help. If I’m ever president I’m gonna make sure that all that tax money goes to something that matters, instead of a new capitol desk.
We really need a Red Cross group. All of the kids are scratched up and crying, folks are dropping dead left and right from sadness, starvation, and even from disease. Even Nic’s got a nasty scrape on his arm and on his cheek.
We can’t really do much now but pray.
September 14, 1900
We met a group of people today who said that they’re gonna go up north in search of a better life. Me and Nic are gonna go with ‘em. I’m hoping that I can find a job as one of them telephones operators or something. I really don’t know what I’m gonna do when we get to Illinois.
We’re leaving in the morning, this and Nic are the only things that I’m taking with me.
September 15, 1900
I hate this carriage; it’s so wobbly and rickety. The old lady that I’m sitting next to smells like a rutabaga, and always yells at me to stop talking when I don’t say anything.
I hope we get there soon.
November 17, 1900
I haven’t written for two months for one reason, we needed to use my empty pages to put in the fire one night to keep it going. I’m writing on an old scrap that I found in the street. I got a job in Chicago as a waitress in a small restaurant. I get paid real little, but it’s enough. Nic’s in school now, he’s doing all right. I can’t go to school because I have to work all day so when he gets home to our little apartment, he teaches me like.
I still miss home a lot. Every day I wake up and think that maybe if I looked just a little harder, daddy would be here right now. And if I was a better sister, then Tomas and Alex would still be here. On the radio, they’re saying that some 7,000 people are dead, and that the Red Cross is doing its very best to help the people in Galveston. I know that they ain’t, if they were working their hardest then no one would be dead. If they were working their hardest then I would be able to go home tonight and have dinner with my family… My whole family.
Maybe I’m being harsh, or unfair, or something that doesn’t give me the right to cry. The only thing that I’ve to blame is that storm, that storm took daddy, Tomas and Alex. Now, every time that I turn out the lights I see that black that I saw in the sky that day, and sometimes it’s pretty hard to run away.