Friday the Thirteenth

Posted on: January 15, 2013
No comments yet

By Tiana Ferrante

Hurricane Charley, I hated you.  It is fitting you came on August 2004, Friday the thirteenth.  I solemnly watched the television as the eye, the most powerful part of the hurricane, neatly rolled over my innocent Florida town, Punta Gorda.  Numb with the colorful pictures on the TV, especially that cool, hypnotic, swirling thing I saw, I little thought of it as I sat on my aunt’s rug in Jupiter, Jupiter, Florida, that is.  I was not expecting anything extraordinary, in fact, I was paying more attention to the car ride than to the destination.
Then, they took me to the house, on Tripoli Boulevard, after finding it by intuition, since our neighborhood was too much like this big landfill.  Where was the roof that kept me safe so many evenings?  Why couldn’t I touch my beloved stuffed animals?  Black mold-infested, they tell me.  Oh dear…A streetlight was the last kind of lamp I wanted in my room.
Doubtless, the hardest time to look at my parents was not when I was in trouble but when they were crying.  My dad’s atrial fibrillation, an electrical problem of the heart, was a constant, a literal breaking of his heart.  I forgot how to read by this time, but that was hardly on my mind when my parents were suffering, and I was helpless.  Staying in a hotel room-made homeless shelter, my family and I were figuratively ripped from our home, which was literally ripped apart, no longer a home, not even a house.  They demolished it, for it was “condemned”, they said.  Well, I thought, the best way to ruin my life is by running over my stuffed animals with that machine.
My process of recovery was thwarted by my seeing the disaster one day and a plot of barren, dusty land the next morning.  Moreover, living it up the nomadic way, we were seen as charity cases, as we well should have been.  People offered us their house when they saw the trailer we were dragging around, and the kind folks gave me such a sense of bittersweet thanks that I couldn’t understand it quite yet.
Consequently, relearning to read was part a recovery from shock and employment of memory and an actual re-education process.  I had to ask my parents how to spell kindergarten words like, “when” and “how”.  Now a writer and reader, I teach refugees English.  Indeed, I was once a sort of refugee, and I felt that bittersweet thanks turn into compassion for the less fortunate than I.  For me, teaching English to the nine year olds I was is a healing process that continues to bless me every time I strut out of Catholic Charities with a smile on my face, a refugee on my mind…and a God-given love in my soul.  
Hurricane Charley, I hated you because I thought you won…I do not hate you anymore.


Leave a Reply