From the Pastor: I Survived Alberto!
Dateline: Tampa, Florida. May 28, 2018. Memorial Day. Oh, that great and terrible day! It all started a couple of days earlier with a few clouds forming as a low pressure system lazily organized in the Gulf of Mexico. News channels lit up with alarmed but somehow gleeful weathermen and weatherchicks (spell check doesn’t accept either “weatherwomen” or “weathergirls” but didn’t flag “weatherchicks” when I tried that on a lark. Go figure.) and pointing to amazing high tech screens with diagrams of winds, gusts, rainfall and lightning strike predictions in multiple colors and, of course, 3D imagining. “Do not worry!” they all said as if reading from the same script, “Just because we are getting a storm this early in the year doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all going to die.” Oh, what a relief that statement was! But then, I suppose maybe just because there is no sports news now that the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to reach the Stanley Cup finals and the Rays management seems to have spent too many hours in Ybor City after hours, the cameras didn’t cut away from the weatherpeoples (I’ll figure out what to call them sometime). So, with the cameras still rolling and time to kill, each weather expert kept prattling on and on about weather disasters of the past and then turned to possible future catastrophes until they were all of one accord that sanity in this “situation” was just too boring. So they continued, “But then again, maybe this really is the Great AlGorian Apocalypse™ we have been warning about ever since we discovered that by bowing to the peer pressure of Core Curriculum Science we could receive accolades, power, and prestige, plus get oodles of Federal grant money for promoting Global Warming/Cooling/Change-of-any-sort Hysteria™!” Somehow the new script got passed around to each station and soon the message became, “We have never, ever, neverever seen even a rainstorm occur in May until Manmade Greenhouse Gases™ (notice how there is never a demand to use “inclusive” language in that phrase) were produced by the two most evil inventions ever to emerge from mad scientists’ scary laboratories, namely the internal combustion engine and cow flatulence. Now we are all doomed. Doooomed...”
By the time the weekend had ended, almost all of Florida was closed down. For instance, all outdoor events in Tampa were canceled on Sunday due to us receiving only approximately 10 hours of sunshine that day. Then came that dreadful Monday morning and the predicted worst-case scenario was upon us. Things were so bad and I was so panicked about the Great Rain Event™ that I almost took an umbrella with me as I walked from the rectory to the church to celebrate morning Mass. We were not sure how it happened but somehow everyone who came to church that morning survived the next couple of hours of frantic and frenetic prayer. “Perhaps,” someone in the still-terrified congregation mused, “we didn’t drown because our church building, like the Church, which has often been seen as a New Ark, physically rose up when the devastating storm surge wiped out all of our city and we, like Noah’s family of old, are the only survivors.” As we all raced to the door to peek out, we half expected to see nothing but waves crashing around us. To our great surprise and relief, though, even the ground, grass, trees, roads, and other buildings seemed to be floating on the floodwaters along with the church, so we all, taking great risks and braving the invisible storm, went home. The parishioners were blessed to be driving cars so they were probably oblivious to the dangers I faced while walking. I was completely exposed to the elements and had to struggle mightily to brace myself against the oncoming 3 mph winds, with gusts up to (it still give me chills as I put this memory in writing) 5 or 6 mph. All I could think of, once I finally battled the elements and arrived safely home, was that God must have some special plan for me to allow me to survive the storm thus far. But I knew that I was not out of danger yet. I immediately went to turn on the TV and stared at the screen for the next twelve hours or so, hanging desperately onto every word uttered by the weather gurus (yeah, maybe that’s the word I was looking for) and “sending good thoughts” to my fellow Tampanians (a much better descriptive word for the city dwellers than “Tampans”) who might not be so fortunate as to be hypnotically hanging on to every word of the dire warnings of “doom, doooom...”. Those poor, ignorant people who had not paid any attention to the weather forecast were stuck spending Memorial Day outside, someplace like the Veteran’s Memorial Park, praying for our deceased military vets, grilling hotdogs, playing with the kids and being completely oblivious to the great disaster which Subtropical Storm Alberto was wreaking upon them. Even though it was a painful experience for them, I sure hope they learned their lesson!
To all of the other Alberto survivors out there, I salute you. And, as a well-deserved (though postponed due to inclement weather) Memorial Day gift to all who gave their lives defending this country so that I would have even seemingly trivial freedoms such as the ability to publish this ridiculous church bulletin article, please pray along with me: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka