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Miami 4th-Graders Write About Their Experiences With Hurricanes

Antonio Santamaria (from left), Emilia Rubalcaba, Veronica Segredo, Louis Perez and Olivia Geller.
Elissa Nadworny
/
NPR
Antonio Santamaria (from left), Emilia Rubalcaba, Veronica Segredo, Louis Perez and Olivia Geller.

When the fourth-graders in Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown's class returned to school on Monday, they were tasked with writing their first essay of the year. The topic was familiar: Hurricane Irma.

By Wednesday, they had worked out their introduction and evidence paragraphs and were brainstorming their personal experiences. To help them remember, Mrs. D-B had them draw out a timeline — starting Friday before the storm. Then, based on their drawings, they could start to talk about — and eventually, write about — what they experienced.

After drawing their experience during Hurricane Irma, students had an easier time talking about it to the class.
Elissa Nadworny / NPR
/
NPR
After drawing their experience during Hurricane Irma, students had an easier time talking about it to the class.

The essays all started off this way: The name Irma will always strike fear, disappointment, and dismay in our city. Here's what else they had on their minds:

Antonio Santamaria, 9

"I felt like Dorothy and her dog in theWizard of Oz,the winds were howling around my house, the rain came on and off, lights flickering on and off in the kitchen. Irma, she devastated the internet and the cable, so we played board games. We had a really good family time experience. Florida and hurricanes ... it's a perfect recipe for disaster. Now we have Maria and Jose and Lee on the loose. For them, I would suggest that you always should stay safe, always try to remember that even if it seems like the world is all darkness, it's always gonna be a way out. Always. You may not see it, but it's there."

Emilia Rubalcaba, 9, and Veronica Segredo, 9

Emilia Rubalcaba, Veronica Segredo
Elissa Nadworny / NPR
/
NPR
Emilia Rubalcaba, Veronica Segredo

Emilia: "Everyone was like really excited, because like, hello, like we've never been in a hurricane before, what this is like? And I'm like, 'Just because you've never been in a hurricane before doesn't mean it's good.' My mom and I evacuated to Canada, but first, we had to wait 11 hours to get on the flight."

Veronica: "I wasn't like scared or anything, I was fine. But we did lose power. Something I just wanted to say, my grandma's name is called Irma, and now she wants to change her name."

Olivia Geller, 9

"It's a little scary once it starts because most of us hadn't been in a hurricane yet. Most of the hurricane was gloom, but not all of it. The actual day of the hurricane was boring. We played hide and seek and we ate snacks."

She offers this advice: "Always stay inside, if you lose power have snacks in case you are really hungry. If something happens and you need to evacuate always put gas in your car."

Louis Perez, 9

Louis Perez
Elissa Nadworny / NPR
/
NPR
Louis Perez

"A bad thing is that I had to go sleep in a closet. It's kind of hard sleeping there like you're always squished. But it was just for a day. It's like a bad dream, happening in a fake world but it's real. It was like swirling winds a lot. You could hear like schwooooo schwooo."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.
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