In September 2004 I was sixteen years old and plunged, immediately after moving to a new city nine hundred miles away from Native State, into a period of such trauma and upheaval that I later termed it the Time of Tumult.
By the close of August my family had already experienced the death of my paternal grandfather and the arrival of Hurricane Charley, and as September began a second tropical storm loomed on the horizon. Before 2004 ended our home would be battered by a seemingly endless procession of hurricanes and we would see two more family members pass away.
A silver lining came in early September, when Cool Cousin, through her fun nature and generosity, turned an evacuation into a vacation for the Our Family children.
September 1, 2004
Dad, in Native City because of Grand Pa’s death, has flown home because of Hurricane Frances. The storm is supposed to get here on Saturday, yet he wants to leave here tonight, a Wednesday. Given that the storm could still shift north, this seems a rather foolish thing to do. I want to stay.
September 9, 2004
Well, it’s been quite a week. On September 2, a Thursday, I rose at 5:30a.m. and went to school. During fourth period (AP European History) I was summoned to the attendance office, where my father picked me up at eleven o’clock with the dramatic explanation that we were evacuating. Either because all plane tickets were booked or because my parents wanted to save money (you can never really be too sure with them) we decided to drive to Native State, a brilliant idea that we would later regret.
It took us seven hours merely to get out of Deep South State, compared with the normal time of three hours. By then, my father sagely pointed out, we would have already landed at Native City International Airport. We made it that night through Sprawling State, Humid State, and half of Growing State, finally stopping around midnight to get six hours’ sleep in a hotel. At six o’clock on the morning of Friday, September 3, we woke and went straight to the car, where we continued on our prolific drive.
We got through the rest of Growing State, all of Southern State, and finally into Native State, arriving at Grand Ma’s house around midday. That afternoon Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible (Grand Pa’s fraternal twin) drove us to their daughter Cool Cousin’s house in the countryside about thirty miles from Washington, D.C.
Cool Cousin’s neighbors are a delightful elderly couple raising their grandson, and they allow Cool Cousin full access to their trampoline and basketball court, luxuries that we took full advantage of.
First we had a hardy romp on the trampoline, and then we went grocery shopping with Cool Cousin, who got us everything we wanted! I can scarcely squeeze sixty-nine cents for a pack of Tic Tacs out of my father, but Cool Cousin just throws the money at you! It was like she couldn’t stop! After grocery shopping, we went to Blockbuster and rented a small collection of horror films.
The next morning, Saturday, September 4, we were out of the house by ten, headed for our nation’s capital,. We stopped at the Capitol, which was, for me, a very emotional experience. My ancestors have served the United States from the very beginning in 1776, both in and out of that building, and it is a symbol of our triumph, indeed, of our country’s triumph in securing democracy and becoming a great world power.
After that we went to the Spy Museum, and, after tiring of the wait to get in, simply strolled to the front desk while Cool Cousin schmoozed with the museum representative, signing up for a membership. A guard immediately led us to the front of a line with about a hundred people waiting. When the elevator carrying passengers to the main part of the museum opened, a second guard stepped in front of the crowd, escorted us onto the lift, and then let others board. As she stepped on one woman remarked caustically, “Oh, it must be nice to be VIP.” Cool Cousin and I shared a look and just laughed, all smiles when we reached the second floor.
There were a lot of exhibits and even some interactive activities, one of which involved climbing into the “air vents.”
Cool Cousin bought me a pad and stamp reading “Top Secret." After seeing the museum, we went out to lunch, where, in the bathroom, I labeled my brother Powell's shining white butt cheeks “Top Secret” amidst fits of our own giggling.
We went back to Cool Cousin's house, met up with her friend Liza, and then set out to Sailboat City for a sushi dinner. The sushi was, in addition to being plentiful, very satisfying, some of the best I’ve ever been privileged to dine on. I can understand why Cool Cousin frequents this restaurant so often. Liza spent the night after dinner, while Powell, Thomas, and I watched It.
The next morning Liza left and we went to the movies. After the movie we went bowling, buying two games, both of which Powell won, but not without Cool Cousin and me close on his tail each time. We left the alley and went to a seafood restaurant outside of Seafood City, right on Native Bay, where we had crabs and scallops, while I enjoyed the private luxury six oysters to accompany the rest of my food. The next day, September 6, Cool Cousin took us back to our grandmother’s home. We essentially did nothing on Tuesday, September 7; but Wednesday, September 8 was Grand Pa’s funeral, a profoundly sad occasion. More tomorrow. I’m going to pray.
September 14, 2004
Our minivan finally arrived home on Thursday, September 9. We returned to school the next day, a feat that, because I still hadn’t quite recovered from being sick, proved herculean for me. Saturday was full of chores, and then on Sunday we went to the beach. I stayed up late Sunday night with required reading, of which I surely have enough to fill the National Archives.
September 15, 2004
Hurricane Ivan is about to hit us. Hurricane Jeanne follows close behind. Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne.
September 18, 2004
Yesterday was a great Friday and today was an eventful Saturday. Today I went to a rally of the Kerry/Edwards campaign volunteers with my school’s Young Democrats club. It was a very nice event held in downtown Central City, and it offered many volunteer activities, some of which I hope to participate in.
September 19, 2004
Today was a busy one for me, as I did lots of homework. I’m going to bed very soon. Hurricane Karl approaches from the Atlantic.
September 23, 2004
In a freak chain of events, Hurricane Ivan, which left Alabama and then dispersed over the continental United States, has come back to menace the Gulf once again. Apparently the hurricane’s largest remnants (just some scattered thunder storms) wandered off into the North Atlantic Ocean from the New York coast, picked up steam from some warm winds, and reunited to form a tropical storm. Ivan is expected to hit Texas this weekend, by which time it may be a hurricane…again.
As if this wasn’t enough, Hurricane Jeanne is predicted to hit Central City by Sunday, possibly followed by Lisa and Karl. How in the world is this happening? I mean, what are the odds? First Charley, then Frances, then Ivan, then Jeanne, then Ivan again, and now two more?
These storms are such that one receives the impression they’ve been sent to, in a single summer, make up for the many disaster-free years our family has enjoyed.
Aside from the typhoons that now ravage our state on a daily basis, a far more pressing dilemma has presented itself: my research rough draft for AP European History is due on October 5. Consequently, I shall be very busy for the next two weeks, and I can only hope that Jeanne will buy me time.
September 25, 2004
It is about ten o’clock at night, and the winds of Hurricane Jeanne whistle and roar between our houses and through our streets. Within these walls we are safe, but the world outside is taking a terrific beating and there is a dull growl as Jeanne’s gales meet the solid barrier of resistance formed by our home. Random objects slam into the house, creating a practical orchestra of sounds by which I will certainly fall asleep. We played out in the storm until Mom called us in.
September 26, 2004
Schools are closed tomorrow. Hurricane Jeanne screeched its way slowly through Deep South State this morning and into the night, subjecting Central City to a day-long beating. My AP European History report and Anatomy project are both due on October 5, so I hope that we have off of school for a long while that I might labor further on these assignments. I shall need true perseverance to shoulder these burdens. I’m going to read the Bible and pray.
September 27, 2004
It’s always a beautiful Monday when there’s no school, regardless of whatever natural disaster brought on class’s cancellation. No school tomorrow either.
September 30, 2004
The first presidential debate was this evening, and I must say that John Kerry was visibly more composed, dignified, concise, and intelligent than Bush, shattering the Republican campaign’s assertion that he wavered. I believe that Kerry utterly triumphed. I am quite happy.