Shifra Rubin

Today, the eleventh of March, I awoke to feel my bedroom shaking. I sat up in bed, frightened. I felt like I was in a snow globe with some invisible hand shaking it violently. Knickknacks fell off the shelves mounted on the walls, my alarm clock was vibrating slowly off the nightstand, and my floor-lamp threatened to fall over.

I brought my legs up so that my chin was level with my knees and prayed. I understood what was happening: an earthquake

My parents and brother had evidently been awakened by the shaking. They burst into my room and quickly pulled me out of bed. They led me downstairs, and the four of us stood there, waiting.

Sirens were wailing and people were screaming and crying. After only a few minutes of wild panic, it all stopped. The shaking ended.

My father walked to our front door and opened it hesitantly. I held my breath. Maybe the ceiling would collapse if he opened the door. I bit my lip as he walked outside successfully. He gasped at the sight of the unfortunate destruction.

The rest of us came to the door and poked out our heads. I understood why father had gasped. Some houses had fallen down; others had only partially collapsed. Fire burned angrily where major destruction occurred.

People were in the streets gawking at the debris around them. I looked up at my own house and noticed that the roof had collapsed. Tears welled up in my eyes involuntarily and cascaded down my cheeks. I wiped them away angrily.

I looked around when I heard sirens again. Was there another earthquake? Would it be as strong as the recent one? These worried thoughts buzzed through my head, and I covered my ears with my hands and shook my head, as if this could knock them away.

Mother stopped me, thought, and pointed at the skyline. She looked terrified. I looked where she pointed with one trembling finger and my only thought was: tsunami.

My little brother was crying, and terror marred his features. He clung to my hand, even though he didn’t know what a tsunami was. I tried weakly to calm him, but to no avail. He knew we were going to die.

Father and Mother rushed us back indoors. I looked back at the tsunami, and it looked like it was twice its original size. If this giant wave didn’t crush us, depression surely would.

Mother and Father forced us back upstairs. I knew what we had to do: get on the roof. But how? Most of the roof had caved in.

We ran into my brother’s bedroom. It had toys and books scattered about like confetti. He started to cry again.

Mother threw the window open with a single thrust. It crashed loudly as it opened to its maximum. A pane of glass fell out and seemed to tumble slowly and magically to the patio beneath, and shattered into a million pieces that could never be reassembled.

Father helped me onto the window sill. I was completely unaware of my actions. I just turned around on the window sill and grasped the leaf-filled gutter for support. I placed my foot on a cleft in the wall and hoisted myself up further. I was able to plant my knees in the gutter. I stood up on the roof and attempted to keep my balance by thrusting my arms out to the sides.

There was a small section of roof still intact. My brother was crying again. He was hanging by his small fingers from the gutters. I leaned down and grabbed his thin wrists.

“Let go of the gutter!” I shouted. He wouldn’t. My father put his hands beneath Brother’s feet to give him something to stand on.

Brother closed his eyes and let go, allowing me to hoist him up. I huffed and fell backwards with him in my grip.

Father, strong and tough, pulled himself up easily. He leaned over the edge of the roof for Mother’s hands. They held onto each other’s hands. He pulled her on the roof.

We all stood there on the partial-roof, waiting for the giant wave of death. Within the next few seconds, it struck.

I screamed as it hit and clung to Mother. I cried into her sleeve and breathed shakily when the house moved violently.

Mother let go of me and pushed me away. Father had fallen backwards with brother.

The giant wave hit the corner of the roof where I had been clinging to Mother.

“Mother?” I said. “Mother? Mother?!” I tried to run to where the wave had hit our roof, but Father held me back. I cried and tried to break free with all my might.

I then feel to my knees. I opened my mouth, but no noise came. I was shocked and in such a state of denial, that tears didn’t even flow from my eyes.

I slowly got up, my head lowered. The water was already receding, lessening slowly. We stood there, waiting and watching. What would we do now?

The sun lowered in the sky, until it was dark. We were wet, cold, and hungry, and we had no place to stay. How could we survive?

I tossed and turned that night on the hard, uncomfortable shingles of the roof.

Finally, I fell asleep and had a nightmare about all the terrors that had befallen my family that day.

I awoke the next morning, the sun shining brightly in my eyes as if nothing had happened. I looked around and saw Father and Brother awake.

“There’s a place we can go,” said Father solemnly. “It’s in a gym, about a mile away. There not too much water in it…maybe an inch or so.”

I nodded sadly. I didn’t want to leave my house, the place where I was raised…I just couldn’t leave.

Brother placed his hand on my shoulder encouragingly.

“Okay,” I said.

The rest of the day seemed like a bad dream. Debris littered the flooded street, people wandered aimlessly, and dead things appeared at regular intervals.

When we got to the shelter, we were brought inside by people with red crosses on their shirts.

We heard a rumor when we were assigned our cots. The nuclear plants were going to explode. Their reactors were compromised. Father believed them. He was a nuclear technician.

Father whispered, “I’m going to volunteer to help with the nuclear plant.”

I looked at him with worry. He smiled sadly at me. He hugged me and kissed my head.

Father got up and told the Red Cross volunteer that he was a nuclear technician. She nodded. I couldn’t head what she said. I saw Father get sent to a man. I assumed that man had something to do with the nuclear plant. Father showed him a card from his wallet. He gesticulated as he explained. The man took the card and studied it carefully.

Father came back when the man sent him. He sat beside me. I looked at him and he said, “I might need to leave and go to the plant. I might not come back.”

I looked down at my wet shoes. The water on the floor was seeping into my shoes and socks. My tears fell from my eyes and mixed with the murky water.

Father hugged me again, and his tears hit my head, warm and wet.

Father let go of me and I grabbed Brother’s arm. He was trying to be strong, I knew it. I whispered in his ear, “It’s okay,” and he started to sob. He clung to my arm and cried freely, not ashamed to show his tears.

The day passed, minute by stressful minute. The Red Cross people turned off the lights and everyone went to sleep. Just like the night before, a nightmare clutched my subconscious when I finally fell asleep.

Brother and I woke up. Father was gone. In his place, sitting on the cot waiting, was the man Father had talked to the day before. He told us that Father was needed at the nuclear plant.

I was petrified. Was Father coming back? Would the reactor explode? Horrible thoughts like these were going to make me anxious. Brother touched my arm to let me know he was there for me, and that gave me strength.

I paced around the gym, waiting to hear about Father. At about 3 pm, the man who was there when we woke up came to us. He looked sad and solemn. He said, “Kids, your father…managed to stop the reactor. But he…died.” He took off his hat, placed it over his heart, and looked upwards to the heavens. “I’m sorry,” he said, and he walked away.

My knees wobbled. Then they buckled and I fell to the floor. Brother wrapped his arms around me and cried and wailed. He buried his face in my shoulder, and I cried in his.

The earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear explosion had taken away the meaning of my life. But I had Brother…he had me…I’d survive and live long for him. 

 


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