Friday, June 11, 2010
Wet Foot, Dry Foot
Caught between the demands and stipulations of two nations, they swam the last few yards to reach the beach on the Florida shore, eager to have their wet feet touch dry land, as required by the rules of an international game. If the United States Coast Guard had intercepted the boat they used to escape their homeland, they would be forced to return there – and to certain punishment. Managing to reach land ensured the chance to remain in the country and to qualify for expedited legal permanent resident status.
They made it safely that day of fear but no incidents and, despite knowing they were leaving many friends and family behind, they never regretted that decision.
Since their arrival two years before, Beba and Maria made a home with Uncle Mario and his family in Washington, D.C. They were happy; they were safe.
On the first warm day of one summer season, Uncle Mario took them and a group of friends on a hike along the Potomac River. Later, and no one could explain why, Beba slipped and fell.
Maria jumped into the water to save her mother's life.
“The calm surface is deceptive,” the fire chief said days later after the bodies were finally spotted and retrieved. “The river's currents are deadly, more so than ocean riptides. You can go down in seconds.”
Though it is illegal to enter the area from the park land and there are safety signs posted on both sides of the river in several languages, including Spanish, many people choose to ignore all warnings.
Uncle Mario will always regret that decision.