It was like any other day for Kevin as he sat at his desk entering the sales numbers with his mind wandering off to the weekend. He would sleep in for a couple of hours before taking the girls out to their friend’s birthday party. He wanted to spend time with them since he gets home very late during the week and they’re already in bed, sleeping peacefully. He knew that someday he would regret not being there. He grew up in a home where his father was also never available, just trying to make a good life for the family. Now he was doing the same and feels guilty because he knows the consequences. He knows that they will forever wonder whether or not he loved them and will always come to the conclusion that their father loved his work more. It was so sad to think of but he couldn’t do anything about it. The company pays him well and without a college degree, he was thankful to have found a job like this.
What Kevin tries to do to compensate is spend as much time as he can with the girls during the weekends. It was their time and he was always looking forward to hear about how their week was and what drastic and amazing things happened at school. He needed to ask about the little boy who had chicken pox marks and whether or not the kids stopped calling him Leopard. It wasn’t such a bad nickname, he thought to himself, it would actually be intriguing once he reaches high school.
Kevin was lost in thought when it happened. It was surreal and totally unexpected. He felt the table shake from under him for a split second. That’s strange, he thought to himself. He looked at his mug next to the keyboard and his mind went blank when he saw it shake. It happened so quickly, he didn’t have the chance to digest the fact that an earthquake just hit the city. He didn’t know what to think or feel when he saw the side of the building collapse. It was just seconds ago when his colleague was sitting at his desk working and now the colleague, desk, and half the building was lost to nothingness. He felt the sunlight shine through and take place of what was just florescent lights.
Then everyone screamed.
It was mayhem. Everyone was running around screaming like headless chickens, with their minds totally dysfunctional. He stood in awe, frozen and blank. Come on, Kevin, MOVE! His friend said, pushing him towards the door. He starting running. Where should I go? What just happened? He wondered. Stairs. I must get to the stairs. Yes, that’s where everyone seems to be going.
He followed the group to the stairs and started walking down. They reached the third floor and the person in front halted suddenly. There were no stairs. Wreckage covered the steps and everyone was panicking.
“What shall we do?!” Someone screamed.
We have to get out before the building collapses! Half of it is already gone, I don’t think it can stay up with half of it gone.
Dan? Have you seen Dan? Dan! DAN!
Kevin was concentrating on finding a way around the rubble. Help me up, try to push me up. We don’t have to go around it, we can go over.
They started pushing each other over the wreckage. Shoes were discarded, clothes were covered in dust, faces were distressed and alarmed, and Kevin had one thought on his mind: his family.
The people in the building barely made it out in time before they felt another earthquake. The aftershock, he thought, I remember teaching Laura about it last year.
He started running towards the havoc that was once a very normal and fairly quiet street. He looked up at the building, it was cracked open like an egg with one half on the ground. He heard screams coming from under the rubble and he saw his coworker run towards the screams. Dan! He heard her scream. Dan! She was covered in grey dust but continued to look for Dan.
I must look for my family, Kevin thought.
He looked for his car keys and realized that he left them in the office. He looked at the roads and decided he couldn’t have used the car anyway. Fear, terror, and disbelief. It wasn’t over. The earthquake was over but the it was still the beginning for him.
He ran towards the school. He didn’t want to think of the possibility that something happened to his wife. He wanted to believe that she was fine and she was also thinking of their daughters. She would be running to the school too. He thought to himself. Mindy’s fine, she’s a strong woman. I’ll meet her there.
The school was worse than his office building. He heard the children cries from a distance and the teachers trying to calm them down with worried voices. Fear, terror, and disbelief. It wasn’t over. The paramedics were rushing in and trying to get everyone seated and teachers were counting and recounting the students. Ms. Addison from the administration was running as fast as her little feet would take her with papers. She went from one teacher to the next handing them out: they were the attendance sheet. Great, Kevin thought, I can find my girls.
Ms. Addison, he said, jogging by her side. Would you happen to know which class my girls are in? Where can I find them? She apologized for not being to help and muttered something that sounded like a little prayer under her breath. He looked at the children’s faces just in case he sees someone he recognizes. Then he saw them. Two little girls huddled under a tree with their faces buried in a hug. He knew it was them and ran. Laura!! Stephanie! He screamed but they didn’t hear him. He screamed again and they lifted their heads. He saw tears running down both of their identical faces and felt so helpless yet relieved.
He hugged them both tightly to stop the trembling. It’s OK, you’re alright. We’re all alright.
It took them a few minutes to calm down. They didn’t share what they saw nor did they talk about what they felt. Fear, terror, and disbelief. It wasn’t over. They just held onto one another while being carried by their dad. Then Laura said, “is mommy OK?” ” I don’t know, I’m sure she is” Kevin answered and held onto hope.
They went over to the paramedics. Sir, let me check the little girls, please. The medic checked reflexes and asked them a few questions. “All clear, sir”
“Could we have someone drop us home?”
“Sorry, sir, we are working as fast as we can but we can’t move any of our units, there are five kids missing.”
Fear, terror, and disbelief. It wasn’t over.
Laura and Stephanie started crying. It took Kevin a while to figure out that the missing children were in their class. Leopard was one of them. Ms. Addison came back and assigned Kevin a few children to take care of and he gladly obliged. He never knew she would be strong in difficult situations, never knew that a person so small in size can sum up enough courage to keep people calm. He looked into her eyes and expected to see a hero. Fear, terror, and disbelief.
Kevin tried calling his wife but the network wasn’t working. He thought it would probably take a few days to get it up and running. He looked at the time, his wife should have been here by now. He knew that she would be worried about the girls.
Then he started getting worried about her. Really worried.
He looked over at the children and wondered where their parents were at. Then it hit him, some of their parents might not come to get them. Some of them might be stuck in the rubble. He recalled the screams, Dan! Dan! Then realized that Dan was sitting on the Eastern side of the building, the side that fell. He realized that Dan also had a family that was worried about him. Where is Dan now? Where is Mindy now?
He started praying. Praying for the parents, praying for the five missing children, praying for the loved ones, praying for his wife, praying for Dan, praying for the young and old. He thought of the hospital and the people there. He hoped nothing happened to the hospital. It was a normal day, doctors had operations scheduled and could have been in the operation rooms. What happened!? He wondered in shock.
He looked up at the sky. It was late afternoon and people were still scurrying. Children weren’t crying as much: some were taken home by their parents and some just gave up and went to sleep. He looked at his two angels who were playing with some grass. He thought of his wife, where are you!?
It was getting late and he had to go home. He had to check on his wife. She could have been home and had something fall on her! She might have been stuck all that time while he was waiting for her.
The last of the children under his supervision were picked up and he went over to the medics. She drove them home. Throughout the way, Kevin prayed and prayed. Trees were fallen on the ground and parts of buildings and homes were scattered across the roads. Some people were still walking around and Kevin could hear parts of their conversations. Fear, terror, and disbelief. It wasn’t over.
They reached home. The lights were on and the two girls were running towards the door as it was suddenly opened. He looked at the figure in the doorway and realized it wasn’t his wife. Where’s mommy?! They asked, scared.
In the distance, he could still hear the cries of his coworker in his mind, Dan! Dan! Dan!
Fear, terror, and disbelief. It wasn’t over.