(This is Part Two of this story, taken from accounts by my grandfather and great aunt, as well as historical record. If you didn't read Part 1, go on over there and read it. Then come back here! And here is Part 3.)
...And yet, even into the night when the heavier rain began, people didn't abandon their feelings of security, although under the ebony, water laden skies, the sea had already begun silent deliveries of an ominous cargo, depositing them onto the beach with the high tide.
The silent deliveries the agitated sea pushed onto the beach that night would have chilled the souls of anyone who had seen them, as well as given stark warning as to what was furiously churning a bulls- eye into Corpus Christi. But no one saw them, not until it was much too late. Wreckage from one of the ships the clandestinely raging hurricane had chewed up and spit out reached land before the storm. Among the splintered wood and ephemeral flotsam were several broken bodies of the sailors of that ship.
Although it was raining, Rosa pressed her nose to the window of their honeymoon suite. It was still early, and the breaking sun was barely visible, but she wanted one last drink of the breathtaking vista. "Look, Rob, isn't is gorgeous, even with the rain?" Rob pulled open the curtain even as he latched his long arm around her tiny waist. His brow furrowed in concern as he took in the the wild frenzy of the distant, wind whipped waves. "What's wrong, honey?" Rosa asked, seeing his concern.
"Don't you worry, my sweet Rosa. I'm going to talk with the manager. That looks like a nasty sea out there. You finish packing and we'll be on our way quickly home," he assured her, his long legs already striding for the door.
Father shouted to M.C. over the gusting wind, even as he slapped the reins, urging the horses on. "Son, we've got to get those newborn calves back up here into the wagon and back into the barn. The rest of the cattle will follow if we can get the calves into the wagon. I really don't like the looks of this storm. This makes me thankful we're inland ten miles. Old Parker, right there so close to the island, is going to have a hard time with this, coming in from the east like it is."
M. C. nodded in agreement as the wagon bumped over the small bridge spanning the river. He pulled his hat down tighter over his head to try and provide a better cover for the rivulets of rain already flowing inside his jacket.
Maria called out, "Be careful, Jose! I don't like you and the kids being out in this storm- This wind is blowing hard and the rain is really picking up!"
"Don't worry, Mama. We'll have that mule picked up in no time. Then, we can go to noon mass together, when this storm lets up. It won't take us long," Jose said over his shoulder to her as he, twelve year old Pablita and ten year old George hustled down the road from their seaside shanty to pick up the mule and get it back into the small stable he'd built for it in the back.
Maria rubbed her belly nervously, not liking the look of the sea or the feel of the stinging rain, slung down from the sky with such force that it felt like small stones. She suspected, but hadn't yet told Jose, that she was pregnant again. She'd lost the last three babies early in those pregnancies, and this was one she wanted with all her heart. She relaxed a little as she thought of her blessings in her hard working man, Jose, who had such big dreams for the future, of Pablita, the shy girl with liquid brown eyes and glossy, braided hair, and of George, who was smarter already than many adults. She prayed and asked God to keep her family in His care.
Rob had only been gone a few minutes when such a blast of wind hit the hotel broadside that the floorboards groaned and the walls shrieked at the strain. Rob burst into the room to find Rosa, suitcase already packed, sitting wide eyed on the bed. "Hurry, darling! It's a hurricane! We must get to higher ground!" The shock rendered Rosa mute, but she held her beloved's hand tightly as he guided her to the stairs.
Already the salt water had erputed across the sand and the storm surge was pushing across the street and into the hotel lobby. Other panicked guests joined them in the flight up the stairs to the top floor. "Hold onto me!" Rob instructed Rosa. "Don't let go, no matter what!" Her small arms wrapped around his waist as he navigated a path for them.
The stairs swayed and then buckled as wind gusts over 110 mph tore through the boards like they were cardboard. Rosa screamed as her arms were torn from their grip on Rob's waist and he disappeared into the maelstrom as the whole front wall of the hotel sheared away in front of them. The swirling water gushed in like a hungry predator.
Father worked to control the team as the winds whipped the wagon back and forth. M. C. held onto the three young calves they had gathered in the back. "Son, we've got to take shelter! This storm is trying to carry us away!" They unhitched the horses and gave them their head while running for an outcropping that could provide some shelter. Each held a calf in one arm and shared the third calf between them. "Father, what about Mama and the girls and little Henry?" M. C. shouted as they reached the outcropping.
"Pray, Son, pray!" was all his undone father could reply.
Back at the house Mama gathered the girls and Henry and while she hitched a horse to the light wagon. "Hurry kids, we've got to try to make it to the schoolhouse! It's on the highest ground and the sturdiest building. We're going to ride fast. I need you to hang on tight! Girls, all of you need to keep a hand on Henry," she instructed even as they forced themselves against the wind into the wagon and she slapped the horse to a gallop.
"Mama, what about Father and M. C.?" her oldest girl shouted as they jolted along the trail to the school house.
Mama was glad the driving rain hid her tears. "Pray, baby, pray!"
Maria looked in horror at the twelve foot wall of sea coming across the beach. Her legs somehow found the strength to run, buffeted by the most powerful wind she'd ever encountered, and she reached the lawn of the Spohn Sanitarium, the city hospital, just in time to see their shanty disintegrate in a fusillade of surf. The surge knocked her knees out from under her and she was plunged under the water like a frenzied baptism. She choked in sea water as her knees scraped across what had once been the gravel road two streets behind. No! she thought. No! It will not end like this! I have my family!
She struggled to find footing even as she choked and gagged on the salty water. Her hands grabbed at holds under the water, only to be jabbed and scraped. The pull of the sea was relentless; a suction that seemed to even want to divide bone from marrow. She was being swept out to the sea and couldn't get her feet planted. She saw the doorway of the Spohn Sanitarium in one of the moments her head was above the water and saw there were others who made it to the steps. If only...
(The final installment, Part 3, will be coming soon. Thank you for sticking with this!)