We Overcame!

by Angel McNatt

Third Place winner, Nonfiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, October 2023

(handwritten story follows typed story)

Twenty-two years later I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was in the shower at the university and the skies were gray.  My friend drove from across town, barged in crying hysterically to ask if I was okay.  The questions in my eyes and the confusion in my disposition must have given it away.  We’ve been hit, the school is being evacuated as a precautionary measure as it continues to escalate.  My heart immediately sank.  My feelings began to overwhelm me, my mind was unable to process what was being said.  The feeling was just so surreal, an outer body experience of sorts.  It was like I was drunk in my thoughts, but sober in my spirit.  My heart could process what my mind couldn’t.  The loss was unimaginable, the grief was unbearable.  I’d never lost anyone close before, but, as the damage, the loss and the carnage unfolded, it wasn’t hard to empathize; to feel like that was my brother, my mother, my sister, my father that I had lost.  I thought to myself it couldn’t be, is it possible to be exposed to yet another catastrophe that I would see!

Twenty years later evidently lightning can strike twice.  If I was a betting woman, I definitely would have rolled the dice.  Unfortunately, snake eyes would have been staring back at me as cold as ice.  I remember the day that I caught it.  It was late November in Texas, and no one knew what it was.  I almost never got sick, but I fell violently sick with high fever, body aches and chills.  The diagnosis was some type of flu.  Four months later revealed the real truth.  The Covid Virus!  So much loss, more than some will ever live to see in a lifetime.  There is no blueprint, there was no cure.  Being healthy enough to wait it out, strong enough to recover was the antidote.  We started to band together as a nation.  When the towers fell—we fell.  When the plane hit the ground in Pennsylvania, we all fought.  When the Pentagon shook, we all shook!  When Covid took my grandmother’s life, it was everyone’s grandmother that went into the hospital alone and died on New Years Eve.  Who would make the banana pudding, who would bring the family together?

We overcame it, we persevered and although everyone physically didn’t make it, all of our spirits made it.  We survived!  The untold stories will continue to live on.  New memories will continue to be made and life will continue to reinvent itself.  The one thing that never changes, we did and will OVERCOME!

Let’s Go to Guatemala – Improvisation with Casa Chirilagua

It’s hard to capture the power of improvisation with one photo (especially if the photographer is me) but this is what we have. Despite the air conditioning giving out in 95 degree heat, our improvisation teacher led 10 really cute little kids through an hour (!) of improv scenarios at Casa Chirilagua. Many Latino families live in this part of Alexandria, and this area (called “Arlandria” since it borders Arlington) was hit hard by the ravages of COVID-19. The disease, job loss, income loss, food insecurity, struggles with at-home schooling, etc., all showed up in force in Arlandria, and the Alexandria community as a whole really focused their efforts to help our neighbors living here.

By the time I arrived, improv class was ending, but I was able to capture the last game where the kids were pretending they had just landed in Guatemala. Some of these kids or their parents were born there, and these kids seemed to really enjoy an imaginary trip home. Not sure why one little girl in denim overalls is lying on the floor. It must have been part of the game. Or maybe she was just worn out?

“10 Questions” with Dr. Stephen Haering, Director, City of Alexandria Public Health Office

Masks! Masks! Masks! Yes, Dr. Stephen Haering, Director of the Alexandria Health Department, and I talked about masks – when to wear them, how to wash them, and what are his favorites! And we talked about a whole lot more during our “10 Questions with Dr. Haering and our follow on “5 More Questions with Dr. Haering.” He’s an interesting guy – his advice to Alexandrians on how to make our community stronger was SO not what I expected from a public health doctor, as was his guest list for his dinner party for six. Take a look!