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Tenacity

Human resilience is phenomenal in the face of all the tragedy we have endured in the past year and a half, not just in the USA, but all over the world as we know it.

For many overcoming our circumstances has been rooted in a belief in a higher power, or belief in God to whom we turn when in distress and our survival is in peril. It is said, “there are no atheists in a fox hole”.

With all the disarray that we have faced of late in America, we are visited with another tragedy, that of a collapse of a condominium in Florida. Even after days after the disaster, we clung to the hope of finding other survivors. Those working tirelessly and all of the support people are our true heroes.

During World War II, I was buried under the rubble for several days so our father related this to me as well as other relatives, since at that time I was the ripe age of six.

It was a crisp sunny morning in early February 1944. We had fled from Latvia from the onslaught of Soviet communists. We became refugees and as such, we were placed into available still-standing structures under the domination of German authorities.

We were queuing for breakfast in an assigned building. As a youngster, I was repelled by the smell of gruel laced with some lard or another calorie augmenting sustenance.

I crept out of the facility unnoticed by adults who all were hungering to get food. Outdoors felt so refreshing. The air was fresh without smelly food and odors emitted from people. As I dallied, enjoying the warm sunshine, I had wandered some distance from our location.

Suddenly my ears caught the sound of four approaching bombers. There was no time to return to the breakfast facility. Our father had drilled us to recognize the airplanes by the sound that they make as well as to be aware of the fact that Brits executed air raid bombings at night. But Americas always bombed during daylight hours. Even as small children we were instructed what to do in imminent danger. During bombardment, if it were not possible to get to a shelter, then one must make oneself as small as possible and find something solid to lay against. I was on a sidewalk next to what looked like a solid structure. Across the street, there was an empty school building and at a distance a church. I had no choice but to cling to the commercial building beside me. The next thing I heard was four bombs being dropped as a wall collapsed over me. As I was covered under the rubble I kept repeating the Lord’s Prayer and asking for safety. I must have either fallen asleep or passed out from exhaustion.

When I awoke I was in a hospital resting between clean sheets, an experience of which I had not had for a long time. The refugees as a rule found themselves in rather disheveled conditions and unclean environments.

A nurse examined me and brought some clean clothing. I was given some food. The next order was that I was put into a cattle car on a train to locate my family. My sole identification was a “dog tag” worn on a chain around my neck; it had my name embossed and the country of origin on it. From time to time, I was taken off the train. I was instructed to hold my ID and show it to people who were waiting for the passengers who got off. I was placed among some people who were waiting to locate their relatives or friends. It was a number of stops before someone recognized my name and directed me to my father and some of the family members. Reunification was awesome. Many hugs and questions.

In rail cars, which were meant for transporting cattle, there were no benches to sit on. People were packed tightly. Sometimes I lifted my feet from the floor and was hanging in midair. This gave some respite from exhaustion.

One time as I was located near a swinging door of a rail car, I was nearly forced out. A rather large lady who was making some shrill cries suddenly flung open the door and jumped out of the moving train. I managed to cling to someone’s leg until the door was shut. I overheard adults discussing something about the fact that the woman was about to have a baby and that she was not able to give birth and chose to jump. At the age of six, it did not make much sense. I was just grateful to be still on the train and hoping to find my family. I was blessed to find someone who recognized either my name or country of origin and directed me to my relatives.

Yes, it is truly amazing that a number of people were rescued in our recent disaster in Florida. It was people from all over the USA who responded to a difficult task. They spent endless hours listening for sounds or looking for evidence of survivors. They also had the gruesome task to recover those who did not survive. Human resilience is phenomenal.

Val Hoover

Marietta

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