I was born in a hurricane. I can imagine the scene—tropical trees dancing with fury, clumps of dirt and shrubs flying around, deserted boats crashing onto the shore. A mother giving birth in a clumsy shack. The winds blowing the roof off the shack and tearing the walls around her. The newborn son being sucked out by a vacuum of wind, he is hanging on only by the umbilical cord. And after ten storming minutes, the mother and child are safe together. The story of my birth.
Actually, my memory seems to have wandered a bit. Omit the crashing boats and flying flora. Replace the shack with a multi-level building—a hospital. Erase the dramatic umbilical cord incident. Include the name and title of the hurricane: Hurricane Gert, Category 2. Note the year was 1993 and the location was northern Guatemala.
Only 1 person died in Guatemala out of the 102 reported deaths in Central America and Mexico. Hurricane Gert passed through Guatemala and Belize on the 17th and 18th of September, when I was enjoying my first days out of the womb. I am not sure of the exact weather conditions in northern Guatemala during that time. I expect it was raining and very windy. Most of the agricultural hubs in the north were destroyed and the coast was ravaged. But I was secure in my building. The rain probably hit the building harder than a normal storm, but it didn’t hit me. Perhaps that is why I like the sound of a heavy rain; it could have been first sound of the natural world I heard.
I was born in a hurricane. That isn’t something everybody can say. I learned about this hurricane when I was younger, but I didn’t know much about it, I didn’t know the facts. I forgot about the hurricane until now (that shows its impact in my life). I didn’t experience the pain and horror of those who were killed, lost their kin, and watched their communities suffer. And Central America wasn’t the only victim of devastation 1993. The whole year was filled with disasters, more disasters than I can count in any other year I remember.
On February 17 some 1,200 passengers were lost when a ferry sank in Haiti. Just nine days later the World Trade Center was bombed, there were over 1,000 casualties. 257 people, with hundreds of more injured, were killed in the March 12 Bombay bombings. Between March 13 and 15, a great storm left 184 dead across the eastern United States, Canada, and Cuba. A 7.5 magnitude Earth struck Japan on June 20; about 385 humans died. I was guarded inside a person during those incidents. There were hurricanes, 6.0+ earthquakes, airplane crashes, ferries sinking, bombings, floods, tsunamis. Man killing man. Nature versus God. It was a horrible year. There was too much disaster to read, so I turned to something else.
On September 16, Dave Winfield, Padres great then a Minnesota Twin, earned his 3,000th hit, becoming just the 19th player to do so. Two months prior to the start of the 1993 season, Reggie Jackson, my all-time favorite Oakland Athletic, was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Blue Jays won the World Series, the Rockies and Marlins were incorporated into the MLB, and The Sandlot was released to baseball childhood acclaim. I can’t think of any better baseball season in the ‘90s. I can give more attention to what happened in baseball the year I was born than all the disasters.
I feel wrong for this. Am I inhuman? I do have sympathy, but I cannot empathize with victims of disaster. What good is sympathy if it is bounded, and if it only means expressing sorrow? Is it not better to cry with someone than cry for someone? Humans are creatures of emotion. Where is my emotion? Why do I overlook disaster with such ease? I do not grieve over catastrophe, I would much rather dedicate my thoughts to baseball. It’s good to grieve; in your grief you can make full understanding of a situation.
Maybe I should blame my birth. If I was born just a few years earlier I could experience that hurricane, and I could have humanity. Instead, I distance myself from disaster. I do not know the images of devastation beyond a few adjectives, so I would rather watch a baseball game than reports on a hurricane.