A young girl stood alone at the beach terrified, and shaking from head
to toe, seawater splashed around her feet and crept up her legs like
fast-growing climbing vines. Her eyes transfixed on the ocean before
her. A massive tidal wave, taller than a five-story building, had
formed, carrying debris along the way, making its way to shore towards
her. She tried to run, but her legs grew weak, and she fell to the
ground. As she started to crawl inland, she opened her mouth to let out
a scream just as the tidal wave landed on top of her, sweeping her away
into the sea. She struggled and fought hard to swim back to shore.
Rising, she ran as fast as her legs could propel her, looking back only
to see the ocean coming after her, again. She fell on the wet, sandy
beach, as seawater splashed all around her. With her last breath, she
mustered just enough strength to crawl up on her feet just in time to
see the ocean on the beach. The beach had disappeared.
The seawater had reached her again, showering her like a huge tank of
water poured on her head, and swept her back to the sea. She spat and
kicked her arms and legs, as the water swallowed her. She looked around,
and she was in the middle of the ocean. She caught her breath, by
holding her head up above the water, shaking and shivering. She closed
her eyes, and when she opened them, she was back on dry land. The ocean
water had gone back to the sea. Exhausted and wearing, she sat on the
dry beach and tried to scream for help, but no sound came out of her
mouth. Instead, water gushed out, and she sputtered, choked and coughed.
“It’s me. Wake up, you are having another nightmare!” Chelsea’s
roommate and best friend since middle school, Nicole said.
“Oh!” Chelsea mumbled under her breath. Hyperventilating, but
relieved, Chelsea sat up on the side of her bed, as tears welled up in
her eyes. She wondered when her nightmares would end.
Lives changed for the millions of people who called New Orleans home
that August night as Katrina descended and destroyed New Orleans.
Chelsea and her family were some of the people whose life changed
forever. That was when Chelsea’s nightmare started.
New Orleans back then was a different place and time; a time when
Hurricane Katrina hadn’t drowned her precious hometown. A place that
always had a special place in her heart.
“How old are you in this nightmare?” Nicole asked.
“Maybe that Doctor, what’s his name?”
“You are still running, he might be right about you needing to go back
home to face your fear, and until you do that, you will always be twelve
in your nightmares.” Nicole reminded her.
“I don’t like him, and I just don’t believe that is the only way I
can move on.”
Chelsea’s cell phone started to buzz. She picked up the phone, glanced
at it. It was Rebi, her mother. She slowly got up from her bed and
walked to the bathroom, ignoring the buzzing phone.
To Chelsea, Thanksgiving had been a time to be with family, eating
specially prepared foods and decorating the Christmas tree. But for some
reason, she refused to go home this Thanksgiving. Chelsea had not been
home to New Orleans in years. After six years of living in Houston, time
may have seemed to fly by like a lightning bug, but it didn’t fly fast
enough for Chelsea.
Her family had moved back home to New Orleans a year ago. And despite
her nostalgia for home, she simply felt she needed more time away. Her
fear was that somehow Hurricane Katrina would be there waiting for her.
Several students converged in the hallways chatting and laughing loudly.
A young African American girl with shoulder-length hair, walked to the
door to check out the commotion. She walked back into the room and said,
“Like you, Chelsea, they are not going home for Thanksgiving.”
Chelsea walked to the door and stood there, taking note of the students
in the hallway. She turned to her friend Nicole, who hurriedly threw
clothes in a suitcase on the bed as if the whole dormitory was about to
“You are right. I’m not the only one staying here for Thanksgiving,
“Yes, those are mostly international students; they don’t celebrate
“I won’t be alone.”
“I know, but it is not the same as spending Thanksgiving with your
family. I hope you’ll change your mind and come with me,” Nicole
“To spend Thanksgiving with your boyfriend and his family? No way!”
“Okay,” Nicole said, picking up her luggage and grabbing her purse.
“Have fun,” Chelsea said as Nicole walked out the door.
“I will,” came Nicole’s reply, stopping long enough to hug
It was Chelsea’s first year of college. As she sat in her room, her
cell phone started to ring again, the sound resonating throughout the
near-empty dormitory. With her phone in one hand, Chelsea got up and
walked to the window and, pulled the drapes wide open, letting the
mellow autumn sunshine stream into the room.
“Hello, Mom,” she said, answering the phone without excitement as
she tucked one of her unruly locks behind her ear.
“It’s me again,” came the voice at the other end of the line.
“Are you coming home for Thanksgiving?” her mom asked as if they
hadn’t had this conversation before.
Chelsea was silent, holding her breath as she leaned against the wall
while Rebi waited for her answer.
“Tommy misses you.” Still, Chelsea said nothing. “Are you
there?” her mom asked.
Chelsea hesitated and then replied. “Yes, I’m here.”
“Can you come home so you can see him one more time? You know it’s
been a whole year since you saw him last in Houston.”
“I’ll think about it, Mom. Give me some time.”
Rebi was quiet on the other end of the line as if waiting for a sign
before saying her next words. “Tommy’s sick,” she said, pausing
for a moment. “As a matter of fact, he ain’t makin’ it to
“No, Mom! Please don’t say that,” Chelsea implored.
“Okay, baby girl, I just wanna let you know,” Rebi said, then hung
In the back of her mind, Chelsea knew Katrina was gone, but her memory
of the hurricane still felt like yesterday. A flood of memories suddenly
brought tears to her eyes as she tossed her cell phone across the room,
then fell onto her bed, grabbed her pillow, and buried her face in it.
Chelsea couldn’t get Tommy out of her heart. There was one thing, and
one thing only, that could make her step foot in New Orleans again. The
one thing could force her to dredge up all those awful, painful
memories, she’d carefully tucked away in her heart, and make her face
Hurricane Katrina demons that still haunted her nightmares and refused
to die––that one thing was Tommy.
Excerpted from "A Pardon For Tommy" by Patricia Nmukoso Enyi. Copyright © 2017 by Patricia Nmukoso Enyi. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.