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Day 372: The Equivalent Of A Dog Tag

In Swimming To Work, Michael Homan writes of “travelling” in New Orleans a few days after the levees broke.

A year ago today I swam from my flooded house to Xavier University. It’s not something I would recommend. I saw several dead bodies and the scenes still sort of haunt me. I wrote a note about my name, address, and contact info for my parents in Nebraska, and put it in a plastic bag and duct taped it around a string that I wore around my neck. Looking back on it I wish I had brought my camera … Sometimes people would shine a flashlight on me from their house, just to see if I was a troublemaker or whatever. It was pretty scary. Today I’m in Omaha, visiting my mother.

Michael’s recollection reminds me of my father’s final days as a prisoner in a makeshift camp after the Iraqis invaded Kuwait in 1990.  Twitching in pain as stomach ulcers flared, Dad wrote out a will on his undershirt, and remained in that shirt until he made it out to safety 24 days after he was first incarcerated. 

Love is such a strange thing.  Even when faced with great personal peril, the brain’s instinct is to communicate to those closest to you.  That your fate is known to a loved one, that personal matters are taken care of, that closure is achieved. 

If my name is upon my chest,
Tell my mama I’ve done my best

This makes me think of our boys and girls in Iraq, too.

I’m incredibly thankful that my father and Michael are still here with us today.  Life cuts both ways.

4 comments… add one
  • ashley September 5, 2006, 4:45 PM

    The closest I came to that was in an airplane that suddenly dropped for about 20 seconds. As people around me screamed and prayed aloud, I casually got my cell phone out, ready to call my wife and children and tell them goodbye.

  • Loki September 5, 2006, 7:15 PM

    My own father has similar tales from his days in a Viet Namese prison camp. I’m sure many of our own social circle also have similar ones. We all seem united in disaster born commonalities…

  • rversde23 September 6, 2006, 4:52 PM

    thats an intense recount. i can’t even imagine what thoughts cross a person’s mind when they are in those situations like Michael or your dad.

  • Sophmom September 7, 2006, 4:14 PM

    Thanks, Maitri, for pointing Michael’s post out to me, and for sharing your father’s story. It’s all so intense and incredible, but it all so happened.

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