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Typical Wind Rita MAG
“I have bad news, Houston,” the radio DJ states. “Hurricane Rita has been upgraded to a category five storm.”
“No!” I cry, tears drowning my eyes. “No! No! No!” I repeat in a voice I haven’t heard in years. Only my little kid self had so fiercely cried aloud. This, however, is different. My mouth isn’t the only thing quivering, and I take deep breaths that make me sound as if I’m having an asthma attack. But this is a panic attack. My first one.
I continue to shake and wild thoughts of how my friends and I are going to die begin to haunt me. I’m going to be crying in a corner of my room with my head cradled in my hands as the wind peels back the roof and snatches me away. Or, a tornado will somehow kill me and swirl my body away to the other side of Houston. And my friends, they’ll die, too. All of my friends who aren’t evacuating will die. Or, no, I’ll be the only person to die, and my friends will ask, “Where’s Marisol?”
I can’t take this anymore and reach for the phone to call my friend. The sound of the ringing phone alone is amazingly therapeutic, and I’m already calm by the time he answers.
“I’m having a panic attack,” I say. If only I sounded more convincing.
“Calm down. Nothing is going to happen,” he reassures me, annoyed. He had repeatedly told me earlier that day that nothing bad would happen.
“But it was upgraded to a category five, and they say Houston is under mandatory evacuation. It was on the Internet. Look it up.” The melancholy in my voice is evident, yet I don’t think he hears how down I feel.
“I can’t get on the Internet, I’m on the phone with you.”
“Well, look it up later.” I know I’m not completely right, only easily-flooded areas are under mandatory evacuation. For everybody else, it’s optional.
“My mama says we’re going back to Longview.”
“It’s ’cause something is going to happen,” I say.
We talk for another minute or two until he says he has to go to the store for more water. I get the feeling he is lying.
As soon as I hang up, my emotions rush out like a dam that just broke. What if that were our last conversation? I cry until there are no more tears. No more sadness. No more fears.
When my dad gets home, I ask him if we’ll evacuate, but he thinks it’s not that serious. Hours pass and I hear a knock on the door. Yes! We are going to leave, and now, I must pack. My mom says we should take two changes of clothes but my mind goes back to New Orleans and Katrina so I pack like I’ll never see this room again.
I stay up most of the night doing laundry and watching the news, but they never say if people in our county should evacuate. At four in the morning, I finally go to bed.
The next day a call from my friend comforts me since she says she’ll be evacuating, after all. I guess I scared her into doing it. I tell her my parents are arguing and that we still have no idea where we’re going.
My parents are watching the news which reports that Rita won’t be so bad and they tell me my sister is stuck in traffic and plans to turn around, which has discouraged them from leaving. What? We’re not evacuating?
Some of my death scenarios start returning. Here I am, with overstuffed luggage and no city to go to. There’s nothing to do but fall asleep and hope for the best. I will be riding out the storm at home.
I am woken up the next morning by a call from my friend Lisa. Apparently, she is staying too, and invites me to come to her house for the storm. I remember imagining myself crying alone in the corner as the storm hits, and accept her offer.
We walk to her house to eat; most of the cupboards are filled with junk food. The house looks inviting, almost like a cozy log cabin with the sliding doors boarded over.
By night, there’s little sign of Rita except for a light sprinkle, a slightly menacing sounding wind, and the electricity going off and on. None of the animals outside seem to be reacting. No panic whatsoever comes from anywhere.
I try sleeping, but without electricity it is disgustingly hot. By now, I realize Rita will be nothing more than wind that sounds like a mini-tornado. Hot, sticky and frustrated, I finally fall asleep.
When we awake, it’s time to assess the damage. I bring my video camera out and playfully narrate the “final chapter” as a TV reporter.
“This is Marisol Casorla, live, at the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. Oh my, this plant got lopsided,” I say sarcastically. I point the camera toward a plant that looks a little crooked and then to Lisa. “You just survived a hurricane!”
To me, Rita is a disgrace to hurricanes. She doesn’t even deserve to be called a tropical storm, nor even, as Lisa declared it, a tropical wind.
I think we all stressed over Rita, but then I see the damage on TV in other nearby regions. I feel terrible that people died while evacuating for something that probably wouldn’t have affected them, but I am thankful that Houston was basically spared. (I’d like to think of it as karma for helping the Katrina victims.)
When I return home a few hours later, it hits me: we still don’t have electricity. After a minute in the inferno of my room, I’m already moaning and wishing I hadn’t left Lisa’s fully functioning home. Even though I feel too hot to move, I still realize how much my friends mean to me and am glad my guy friend was right about Rita. If only I didn’t have a handful of “I told you so’s” waiting for me at school ...