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September 1st, 2008. Oh how that date brings tears to my eyes! That was the day Hurricane Gustav decided to throw an exceptionally large oak tree on my house, with me in it.
I’m dog sitting for my aunt Laurie. The dog, Meg, had already been with us for three days and my little brother, Chris, and I spoil her, much to my aunt’s displeasure. I pet Meg as my mother takes her turn at the game of Life. I look out the window and watch the rain. I love the rain, and I wonder why I’m not playing in the rain, like I normally am. Meg barks, jumps off the couch, and runs down the hall to my room.
I sneer at in the living room: the ugly green walls, the stained carpet, the ugly flowered sofa and matching loveseat, the incredibly large pile of wood that is our entertainment system (including TV, stereo system, and my father’s entire collection of Star Trek movies stashed under the TV in their own little cabinet). My lips turn into a smile, I love this room! After all, I’ve lived here since I was small.
I get up to inspect a noise emitting from my room. I walk in and Meg has Chris pinned on my bed. I laugh and call her over to me, crooning to her as Chris de-dog-hair’s himself. Her little tail wagged furiously. I jump on my bed, back first. And Meg jumps on top of me. I laugh as I struggle to (a) get her off of me and (b) to breathe again. I hear the rain pick-up.
“I wish I was outside!” I wine to Chris.
“You’ll get sick, especially when it’s raining this hard.” he tells me.
I give him a do-you-really-think-I-care-if-I-get-sick look and he shrugs.
“I’ll be back,” I tell him, my voice ringing like a song.
I get up and Chris preoccupies Meg. I re-enter the living room, taking my turn at Life and returning to my room. I go to put on a CD but Chris hates all my music so I turn around to go to the master bathroom, Mom’s room. But I only got to the doorway before there was a loud crack of what I assumed to be thunder (It turns out it was the tree snapping and hitting the roof of my home). And I, being afraid of thunder at the time (Yes, that’s right THUNDER.), Squealed and fell on my butt, cradling my head between my knees. When I opened my eyes, something was very wrong…Dirty pink fiberglass fell from the peaking open attic door. But there was also something silver sticking out…and I smelled gas. I screamed and ran into the living room.
When I arrive, I notice Mom crying and screaming, and there is a foot of thick tree branch in the corner of the ceiling! Meg rushes past me as I’m frozen in fear and I hear Chris run out the front door screaming when Meg jumps on the so-ugly-I-adore-it sofa.
“Get Meg’s leash!” Mom screams.
I still don’t understand how I hadn’t broken down crying yet. We were all so scared. I could tell, because my hands shook like a Chihuahua as I attempt to attach Meg to the leash. Eventually, the clip slips into the ring on Meg’s collar and I begin to run with her across the street, Chris waiting at the other side of the road, frozen in shock. I take his hand and practically drag him to the Gehbauer’s house. I raise my hand and knock.
Vicky Gehbauer answers the door. She looks up at my house, of which I refuse to look, and then back at me understanding immediately.
“Tie the dog on the porch,” she said softly as she ushers Chris inside.
I hear Chip, Vicky’s husband, ask what was wrong and I heard her second youngest son, Evan, who is seventeen, ask if Chris was okay. I nodded and tried to tie the leash to the post. I shook my head as my hands wouldn’t cooperate at the present moment.
“I can’t! I c-c-can’t! S-s-she’ll be a g-good girl. W-wont you, Meg? Won’t y-you be a good g-girl?” I say to the dog, my voice shaking, making me stutter.
Vicky sighs, her displeasure clear on her annoyed face.
“Fine,” she says, her face softening as she hugs my shoulders and take’s Meg’s leash from my death grip, “We’ll put her in the laundry room.”
She brings me in and tells Chip and Evan what happened. Haynes, her youngest son who is seven, came and hugged me. My face felt hot with the tears I didn’t know I was shedding, but the rain that soaked my clothes was so cold I barely felt the tears at all. Since my face began defrosting, the tears became more pronounced and I felt my face turn red from mixed emotions. Vicky told him to keep Chris and I company until our mother came. He nods and took us into his room.
I curled into a ball on the bottom bunk as Haynes tried to make me laugh. Chris curled up on the floor and rocked back and forth. When I stopped crying, I dared a look out the window and saw the mess. There was an enormous oak tree on my house! Mom stands on the sidewalk, her hands covering her face as the neighbors, neighbors I never saw before in my history of being in the neighborhood, held her and rocked her; I could barely read their lips through the rain as they told her that everything was okay. Yeah right, there’s a tree in our home!
I walked out Haynes’s room and found Evan, Chip, and Vicky at the dinner table, deep in conversation.
“Mrs. Vicky? Could I please have an aspirin?” I asked softly, rubbing my throbbing temple.
“Sure sweetie.” she says, hurrying off to get one.
She came back not a second later and I took it eagerly, just as the lights go out.
“There go the lights,” Chip jokes just as Vicky goes to the laundry room door.
But before I could tell her, the door opened and Meg dashes out. I retrieve her and Vicky begins to apologize.
“Oh Sara! I’m so sorry! I forgot she was in there!”
As my headache begins to recede, I laugh, despite the hell I had just went through. She was apologizing to me like this was my house. I lock Meg back up and hear her whimper. Mom calls and asks what I want to bring to grandma’s and I tell her I don’t care, just as long as my Daddy Blanket, as I named it when I was small, was with me.
Mom came up the driveway, bunches of clothes and stuff in the trunk as she ushered Chris, Meg and I in the car. All our faces were red and streaked with tears as our breathing was labored from the disbelief.
I could have died. That was the reality I had to face at that moment. If I had gone in to my mother’s room like I was going to, the tree would have crushed me, killed me. That’s when I thanked God for my present fear of thunder.
As we approached Grandma Libby’s house, there was a down power line and a cop car blocking our way. We turned around and went the long way around. When we got to my grandma’s house, I went on in and she jumped at my being there in her kitchen. My mom’s eyes teared up as she told my grandmother what we were all thinking.
“All my stuff’s getting wet. It’s raining in my house.”
Later on, about a month or two after the hurricane, my family got the news that the old, plastic, light-up Santa in our attic had helped save the house, and us, and that we were able to save it. Santa survived with a single dent. That Santa now stands in our new home’s front window on Christmas, a proud figure in our home saying imaginary figures can save lives. Or, at least three people and a dog’s.
San Francisco, California
New Orleans, Louisiana
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