It Still Takes My Breath Away…
It’s 3:30am. With an American Airlines’ red blanket in my hand, I laid in exhaustion on the airport floor. My arms were sore & throbbing from dragging all the luggage from gate to gate. My head was pounding. I was completely worn out. The children had finally settled down. I grabbed my eye mask to block out the light and I put my head phones on to block out the noise.
45 minutes had passed and my heart began to pound. I could feel it beating faster & faster. My pulse was racing. The anxiety was creeping through my veins. My body began to shiver. I could tell I was struggling to catch my breath….. I instantly sat up with fear – yanking off my eye mask and frantically looking around me.
There I was….had it really been 3 years? Did it still have the ability to take my breath away? Did it still have the power to consume my whole being? Is this all it took? A tram going from terminal to terminal? One that shook the very ground I was laying on? Within seconds there I was – back in my bedroom. It was January 12th 2010.
I had Dengue Fever and was on an IV. My mom and the girls were playing cards on the bed…..the cards went flying as the very bed I was laying on began to jump off the floor. I ran out of the room – ripping the IV out of my arm. Confused & shocked – an earthquake? What? In Haiti? What?
The news flooded that it was bad. It was really bad. It was unheard of bad. Jose. I forgot Jose was in Port-au-Prince. I spent hours in disbelief. There’s just no way. No way I’m a single mom today. No. Right? No.
Hours had passed as we waited by the phone. Jose called and I heard his shaken voice. He had spent hours in tears. He thought he was going to be left all alone. His family destroyed – covered in concrete – just the way he had seen everyone around him. Frantically he’s asking if we made it out of the house. Over and over again he begs us to stay out in the courtyard. Crying we realize that we are still breathing together in this world. We pause to catch our breath and the phone call dies.
It would be another week before I would hear his voice. It would be another week before I knew if he was STILL breathing in this world. My father & a few staff loaded into trucks and went to Port-au-Prince. Weeping I asked my dad to please find Jose. I knew something had to be wrong because he would have walked to St. Louis if he had to. Others had made it here. Where was he?
Other employees were kissing their loved ones loading the truck with my dad – begging them too – please find our husbands. Our wives. Our daughters. Our sons. Our sisters. Our brothers. Our moms. Our dads. Our very best friends.
I was standing on top of the roof – overlooking the courtyard when I heard the truck pull in – several days later. Tears streaming down the cheeks of the staff sitting in the truck – who had just seen horrific images they could not process. The children and I sprinted to the courtyard to embrace our loved one. Jose – covered in mud & dirt had made it home safely. For a moment we were able to catch our breath. We were still in this world together.
Many of our other staff would look in that same truck – to see if they too had their loved one there. But Jose was the only one to step out of that beaten truck. And we began to weep again.
It still takes my breath away…..