She looks up at me with her warm brown eyes. "Daddy, we'll be okay, right?"
Tears fill my own eyes as I look around. We are sitting on the roof of our apartment building, floating above deep, murky water. The rain is still coming down, pelting the flooded earth with cold drops, as if the sky is crying for our loss. Muffled cries for help, sobs from our neighbors fill the air. I take a deep breath, trying to steady my voice before I answer my daughter. "Yes, we'll be fine, sweetie." I pull her in closer to me.
Wet rags cover her four-year-old body. I push the fabric around, futilely trying to cover her up, to keep her warm. "Daddy, I'm hungry."
"I know. Daddy's hungry too." I run my hand along her wet, soiled hair.
"When will the hurricane go away?"
"I don't know, Kat," I reply, using my pet name for her. Ironically, her name is Katrina, just like the hurricane that has so ruthlessly ravaged our home. She hugs me tighter.
Then, she hears a dog barking. Her eyes light up. "Puppy?" Our little dog, Kat's best friend, had been washed away hours ago.
She pulls away from me and clambers toward the noise, dangerously rocking the roof.
"Stop, Katrina!" But Kat has already made it to the other side. Carefully, slowly, I try to make my way to her, hoping that my movement won't flip the roof over.
"Puppy!" she calls. Then, she spots him, clinging onto a piece of driftwood with all his might. She extends her hand, beckoning him to swim closer. Puppy barks again, and Kat reaches further, further...
"Katrina, no!" I watch helplessly as my daughter plummets into the mucky water below, screaming for me.
Not caring if the roof tips over anymore, I clamberto the spot where I last saw my daughter. I grope around the water, trying to grab her hand, her hair, anything. Feeling my heart stop, I remember that she hasn't learned to swim yet. "Katrina!" I call again.
But my hands don't find her. My daughter, my beautiful, beloved daughter, is gone.
I should probably clarify my summary:The news briefly showed a man whose wife was washed away by the hurricane's waters. Originally, I tried to write a poem based on the man's story, but instead it inspired me to write this. As far as I know, the events in the story are completely fictional.
9/2/05: Added and changed a few things in the story.