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Sample Narrative Essay: Personal Recollection on a Disaster
Typhoon Ketsana was one of the strongest tropical cyclones to ever hit the Pacific and I was a witness to its power. I saw the devastation, the hopelessness, and the fear that it instilled in the victims. I witnessed how it ravaged communities, took away loved ones, and changed the world in just a few days. Living near the Pacific, I was no stranger to strong winds and stormy days. But Ketsana was something different, a storm that will never be forgotten. It was one of the most humbling events that I ever experienced and it shifted my views on humans and the world.
The beginning of Fall 2009 was warm, perfect for the 13-year-old me to play outside with friends. Our family lived in the suburbs, about an hour away from the city center but close enough that I could commute to school. Our two-story house was in a medium-sized community and the neighbors knew each other very well. There were some odd ones, though; such as the Williams and Millers. They greeted us when we crossed paths but they did not really make an effort to meet the whole community. Still, they were our neighbors and we liked them, nonetheless.
Not far from our community was a large river, about a 10-minute drive from our house. There, my family loved to spend the weekends basking in the sun and just watching the calm stream. My father and his friends would venture near the deeper parts to cast their lines and spend all afternoon drinking beer and telling stories. My mother would look over me and my friends as we played near the river banks. Other families frequent the river too, it became an unofficial gathering hub for the community on the weekends.
The first few weeks of the fall were warm and it was the best time for a kid like me. It was a school break, I had no homework and I could play all day with my friends. The Internet was not yet a must-have back then and outside was the place to be. And so that was what we did. We ran around the neighborhood; playing tag, catching bugs, and climbing trees. We would lay on the grass and listen to the world around us. We would hear the lawnmower noise from Mr. Kim’s yard, the singing birds rustling on the treetops, the barking of a distant dog, and the car-filled street just a few blocks down the road. That was our paradise, a sun-kissed neighborhood where we could play until our arms and feet were tired.
A few more weeks passed by and we noticed light showers during the days and strong rain at night. Clouds began to cover our sun-kissed neighborhood, making the mornings and afternoons dimmer. We had to bring an umbrella every time we went out and this made playing outside tedious. The grass was always wet, the dirt had turned to mud, and it was just not the same place we loved. So, we spent most of our time indoors instead. I was an only child and so I was alone, watching water droplets race against each other in the window. At night, I would cuddle my blanket tight. I never liked the cold but it felt good to cuddle my fleece blanket under the rainy moonlight.
Days passed by and the weather did not get better. Mornings and afternoons continued to have light showers while the nights were always stormy and chilly. News outlets report a typhoon near our area and it was a big one. We heard that some rural areas are already submerged in knee-deep water while others are preparing to evacuate. Local officials were telling people to stay indoors and avoid traveling until the storm passed by. Hearing these reports and the news of devastation, my young imaginative mind thought that the world was ending. With the night storms becoming stronger and lightning accompanying the rain; I was more sure that the end was about to begin.
Seeing that I was afraid, my parents assured me that we were safe in our house. We have been there since I was a baby and there have been more than a dozen storms that passed by. Never did floodwater touch our floor nor did the wind take off a part of our roof. Our house was strong, the community stood on elevated land, and we had supplies that could last for a couple of weeks. There was no reason to be afraid, it was just another storm, or so my father would regret saying.
Rainfall continued for a couple of days, with just a few minutes or hours of pause. This did not alarm us at first. The power was still on, radios and televisions were still working, and some people were even walking through the rain. But then rainwater slowly built up in the lower areas near our community. Through my bedroom window, I could see the water slowly rising over time. Not long during the morning, I saw that the once shin-deep water was now above waist level. Some of the inhabitants in the lower areas were leaving their houses and were staying at a nearby facility-turned-evacuation area. Despite this, the flood water was still far from our house. We were in an elevated area, after all. My father even said that if the water reached us, then the flood would have completely submerged the lower areas.
Nearing noon, my parents were up on the second floor while I played with my toys in the living room. The rain was still pouring but I wanted to keep it out of my mind. As I was playing, I noticed water seeping in from our front door. It has been more than an hour since I looked outside so I was unsure of what was happening. When I lifted the curtains of our front windows, I saw a brown sea instead of the solid pavement of our community. I was in shock but gained the courage to move and alarm my parents. I told them about the water, about the hazel sea that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
My father rushed to turn off the main power switch and my mother and I started to move things from the ground to the upper floor. I was scared; we had nowhere to go. Questions clouded my mind. “What if the water continued to rise?” “Do we stay in the attic or on the roof?” “What if the house is fully submerged, where do we swim to?” My heart was beating fast, my mind panicking, and my body was shaking. I was a kid and I was fathoming about my death. The flood continued to rise as the rain persisted.
It was now late afternoon, the first floor of our house was submerged and the water was three steps from the base of the second floor. Thankfully, the rain has weakened, it did not halt but there was less water reaching the already-flooded streets. I was in my room, looking through my window and at the brown sea that was once a community. The lower houses have disappeared, flood water has sunk them fully. Taller structures remained in sight, becoming shelters for the now homeless and tired. The flood came to us slowly, which prevented massive damages, but it was still a devastating experience–to watch your home disappear under murky water.
Night came and rescue boats came to our community. They were looking for the injured, for those who needed medical help. They told us and the others that we are safe in our homes and there was no need to leave. The storm has passed and the flood will soon recede. And this was when I saw the real tragedy; the selfishness and entitlement of humans. Just in front of our house was another two-story building. The people there were safe and healthy, just like us. But when they saw the passing rescue boats, some of them started to scream for help. They screamed that someone was drowning, that electricity was electrocuting someone; that they cannot breathe. It was a petty display and everyone at the scene knew that it was all a bluff. The rescue boats passed them, ignoring their lies. And oh, how I smiled when they stood there silently in shame.
The flood receded fully overnight and all that was left was to clean up the dirt that seeped into our homes. But some of the dirt would remain, especially ones that revealed themselves by the end of the storm. My story is not as horrific as the ones about rushing water taking away people and houses. Instead, it is a reminder that everything can change in a blink of an eye. That an emerald plain can suddenly become a murky swamp; that a calm river can rush in rage; that the neighbors you adored can become petty humans, disrupting order. Ketsana was a storm that brought change, both to the landscape and to the rose-colored spectacle that I once wore.
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