Awoken by the roar of a semi, I lifted my head from the bitter sidewalk. When I went to stand, a sharp pain shot through my leg. I could not go much farther. The thrashes in my shoes provided a great amount of blisters; making it almost impossible to walk. I tumbled
back to the cold ground, questioning what was left for me in this life.
Why do I keep going? Are they even out there? These inquiry’s could not be answered.
It has been a year since the disaster, and I am stuck in the vicious streets of Atlanta. My struggle to survive grows greater with each day that passes; living off all I can find. I do not need a sign, because I refuse to beg. I fend for myself. Whether I have to scavenge through the rubbish or turn tricks just to find a bit of shelter, it is my job to find what I have so tragically lost. That is what keeps me going. Hope. Hope that they are still out there. Hope that I will get to see their faces just one more time. Everything I loved was washed away in the blink of an eye. Now, homeless and forgotten, all I want is my family back.
I can recall the event like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my room, thinking about my final days before going off to college. Then, the sirens began to screech. Confusion filled my head until horrific screams relayed from the streets. I rushed downstairs to find my mother and sister huddled around the television.
“What is going on?” I panicked.
“There was a-,” My mother was cut off.
My dad sprinted into the room carrying a duffle bag and the car keys. I knew something terrible was happening.
“Everyone in the car!” he exclaimed.
“Will someone please tell me what is happening?”
“There is no time to explain Von, we have to leave.”
He ran out the front door and began forcing our belongings into the trunk. I was very perplexed. The whole city of Miami was doing just as we were. Frightened, I blitzed back upstairs and grabbed all I could fit into my backpack. The same one I wear today. Pictures, medals, clothes, if it caught my eye, I scooped it up. When I was all set I looked in the mirror one last time; locking eyes with my twin. His shaggy, brown hair looked as it did every morning, along with the twigs he had for arms. Little did he know about all the trouble his puny body would be put through over the coming year. I regained focus and took one last glance at my room. Then, startled by the sirens once more, I hustled to the car and assisted my father.
“Von, get in the back with your sister. This will be a long trip,” my mom said with a look of misery. I did not dare to ask anymore questions.
As we began to drive away, I looked back at my beach house. It was a beautiful house. The yellow siding making it a standout attraction. I could feel my eyes beginning to sprinkle like the start of a rainstorm. It had gave me everything I needed for 18 years. Just when I was getting ready to move on, something else caught my attention. The question I had been wondering was answered in one glance.
“DAD IT’S COMING!” My sister yelled.
Something was forming out on the horizon; making its way across the ocean. It was a beast with a relentless path-- a path that was coming straight towards us. A tsunami was rolling across the Atlantic, searching for its first victim. Miami.
I can only remember waking up deprived of food and water; screaming the names of my family members-- no one answered. My first instinct was to go in search of them, but my body thought otherwise. Now, I have waited too long. I must get back to my home and find the people I love. The time I have spent recovering has also allowed me time to think, to plan. It is well thought out and in my mind flawless. Since my only source of transportation is my feet, I must prepare for the long haul. This includes filling my list with with water and snacks to keep me going. How will I get supplies you ask? Well I’ve learned a couple of things in the past year. Although a few of these methods may be illegal, they help diminish the distance between me and my home. That is also what I need to sustain, a relentless mindset. This seems to be my biggest conflict in such a punishing task.
I enter the store and can already feel the darting eyes of civilians surround me. Unfazed, I search the isles for what I need. Once I find what I am looking for, I wait until it is safe to make my move. When this time comes, I begin shoving the water bottles and food into my pack. I take all that I need and begin the hardest part in the theft-- the escape.
As a homeless man with only a backpack, I stick out like a sore thumb in any grocery store. Because of this, I will have to be nothing but quick. I start by strolling toward the exit; giving my best impression of your typical shopper. Once I make it to the checkout there is no looking back. I take off for the streets with no regrets. The workers are too slow to react as I rush out of the building, turn the corner, and begin racing down the sidewalk. I check behind me to see if I am being followed. My eyes are met with the blinding lights of a squad car and some much too familiar sirens. This just got a whole lot more interesting. With a boost of adrenaline, I dash down a side street. I know it will take more than this to lose him so I keep my head on the swivel. I make another sharp turn, sweat fogging my vision. My legs begin to fill with ache and I start to lose my ground on the cop. The deafening sirens keep getting closer and closer until I hear the P.A. ring out.
“Stop in the name of the law!”
This is when I spot my escape route. Ditching the cop, I make my final turn down a narrow alleyway and sprint until I come out the opening; a car no longer behind me. I decide to hide out in a public bathroom until I know I am safe. I stay in there for what feels like an hour, just to make sure that the coast is clear. I exit the bathroom and notice it is now getting late into the afternoon. I will be spending another terrifying night in Atlanta. I find a corner to end today’s estatic journey. I rest my head on my backpack and decide that I will leave at the quake of dawn toward Miami. Too tired to make any more movement, I fell asleep picturing the beautiful beach house.
The suns rays beat down on my face as it peaked over the buildings; waking me up in an instant. I slowly came to my feet and lifted my belongings over my shoulder. Today I will be making my way home. I started my way toward the highway.
I have been only hiking for a day and I already feel defeated. My feet hurt more than ever and the pain in my leg has returned. I have no idea where I am and I am losing hope. It is impossible for me to trek all the way there. The toll this has already taken on me is nothing compared to what is left ahead. In the distance I see a rest stop. This is just what I need. I enter the facility and find a map giving me my location. I have barely made it out of Atlanta. I drop to my knees and tears begin to stream down my face. I cannot hold them back as I am filled with doubt and failure. Then, I hear the door swing open. I turn around and see a man dressed almost like a cowboy; a truck driver I suppose. Ignoring the man I turn back to the map and wipe the tears off my face.
“Is everything ok son?” I hear from behind me.
I turn and see the man studying me with a confused face.
“Uhh yes sir I’m fine,” I reply.
“You don’t look too good pal,” he says with a chuckle.
“You’re right, I’m not,” I sigh.
“Well what are you doing here? I don’t see a car here,” the man says while he points toward the parking lot.
I search the lot and spot the man’s semi. A big red truck carrying a large crate on the back. I see the license plate and try my best to read what it says. When I am able to figure it out, a jolt of life shoots through me.
“You’re from Florida?!” I burst out.
“Indeed I am; heading back to Miami tomorrow morning,” he says with a sense of pride.
“Do you think I can maybe… tag along?” I ask.
“I mean I don’t see why not seeming you don’t have a ride.”
My heart began to race and a smile raised across my face.
“What’s your name son?” he asked.
“Von, Von Davis,” I answered.
“My name is Mike. It’s nice meeting you Von. Tonight we can both sleep in the truck, we will leave first thing tomorrow morning. Now I’d love to chat more with ya but it’s time for me to hit the hay.”
Mike and I exited the building and I hopped in the passenger seat of the massive vehicle. I could not believe this was happening. For the first time in a year, I have a feeling of happiness.
The very next morning we did just as Mike had said. I can’t remember the last time I was in any type of car. It was a weird feeling, but also a good one because it was how I was going to get home. I asked how long the drive would take and Mike said about nine hours. It was only 5 in the morning so I will get there in the afternoon. Throughout the whole trip I could not contain my excitement and this led to Mike asking why I was heading to Miami. I explained to him how I was separated from my family by the tsunami and not much was said after. We are only an hour away from my home and nervousness is beginning to creep in.
It’s been so long. What if they’re not even there? I thought to myself.
I had to trust that they would be. I sat in patience for hours upon hours until we finally reached Miami Beach. Seeing the aftermath one year later was still tragic. Buildings tore apart and trash scattered across the street. The rebuild process has just begun. I had never fully understood the impact of the disaster until now. We drew closer and closer to my home; the ocean coming into sight.
Just like I remembered, the bright, yellow house standing proud with its color. Mike stopped the truck and I thanked him for his generosity as I climbed down to the pebble that surrounded my walkway. As I approached the front door I noticed all the repairs that had been made. I figure that my home was hit the hardest by the wave. I walked up the steps and took a deep breath at the front door. I pounded on the door three times and then sat nervously for an answer. It took a minute but I could finally hear someone rushing to the door. All kinds of emotions started building up inside of me. Then, the door knob turned and the door slowly opened. A woman answered, a face I was not familiar with.
“Who are you?” I questioned with anger.
“I am Mrs. Newman, I live here,” the woman said annoyed.
“W-What about the Davis’s?” I asked with a depressed look.
“You just missed them, they moved out yesterday.”
My heart dropped and my head spun. I took a step away from the patio to try and recollect myself. I heard the door shut behind me.
They’re gone, they’re really gone. I thought.
I could not contain the endless amount of tears that I was restraining. I have failed to find my family and now I have even lost my home again. So many questions ran through my brain, but I was too sad to think. At that moment, a car rolled up to the home. Not thinking anything of it, I began walking away from my house. Then, from behind me I heard the scream of my mother.
“Von!! Von!!!” she shouted with so much joy.
I turned and started to sprint toward her. I jumped into her arms as she was sobbing like the day I lost her. I released from my mother's arms and looked toward the car; running to us was my sister and my father. We all embraced in a hug. I’ve finally found my family.
“What are you guys doing here? I thought you moved?” I sobbed.
My father released from my arms and spoke, “We came back to pick up our last things for the new house.”
Once we were all done with our reunion my dad walked to the porch and picked up a box, and only later would I find out that it was a box filled yellow paint for the new house.