Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sometimes a Great Adversity Affects Us Less Than Its Aftermath by Zoe M. McCarthy

“Mom! What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.”

Zoe M. McCarthy

I located my mother in her bedroom, where she furiously packed a suitcase. 

The date was October 22, 1962. The principal’s grave voice had come over William T Sampson High School’s PA system. “Go directly home.” 

We always rode the gray Naval buses home for the lunchtime break on the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba Naval Base. But that day, I saw suitcases in the yards along the route home.

Completely bewildered, and my heart thumping, I exited the bus two stops early and, under the hot tropical sun, raced to our standard wooden house in officers’ housing. 

Mom knew only that we were being evacuated. She told me to quickly pack a few things. In my room, I grabbed my curlers, some underwear, and a blouse. 

Daddy detoured from making sure all American civilians were evacuated from an enlisted men’s housing area for a brief goodbye.

Within two hours, my mother, my eleven-year-old brother, and I boarded the military transport, the Upshur, a ship then used to convey transferred military families to their new assignments.

Among the crowd on deck, a woman still wore horseback riding clothes; another older woman claimed this was her second evacuation, the first being Pearl Harbor.

Directed into the ship’s hold, where troops were normally billeted, Mom and I were ushered to the left and my brother, sporting a cast on his broken arm, was steered to the right. My tow-headed brother looked so vulnerable. Later, I saw him once. He begged for clean socks.

Mom and I claimed bunk beds, then I went up to find my friends. During the three-day trip at sea, Mom stayed mostly below deck. I checked on her occasionally. 

We teens pooled together the best we could, singing our rendition of Neil Sedaka’s “Breakin’ Up Is Hard to Do:”

“They say leaving GITMO is hard to do,
now we know, we know that it’s true,
don’t say this is the end,
instead of leaving GITMO,
we wish we were going back again.”

A bull of a Marine sergeant policed the decks, commanding teen boys to “Get aft!” 
Young enlisted women were issued MP armbands, and in their new power, barked assignments to teens. My girlfriends and I sidestepped being sent to clean the toilets plugged with soiled baby diapers. The teen guys served food to the endless lines of hungry evacuees until the boys’ eyes were bloodshot.

Mid trip, the ship quieted to hear President Kennedy apologize over ship's speakers for uprooting us from our homes. I recalled days earlier when Upshur passengers told me the captain’s ruse that the ship had a broken boiler and was stuck in GITMO for repairs. So, days before we sailed, the U.S. government prepared to evacuate civilians.

When we docked in Norfolk, Virginia, it was snowing. A nearby hangar contained miles of racks of donated coats. Dressed in coats over our short-sleeved cotton shirts, we entered processing. Mom was overwhelmed, so I made all the decisions. Her parents lived in frigid Ohio; Daddy’s lived in sunny Florida, where my older sister attended college. We’d go to Florida.

I was immediately enrolled in a sophisticated high school where madras attire was the rage. But I had only one skirt and two blouses. On the first day, the English teacher looked at the form indicating I came from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She didn’t look at me, but asked if I could speak English. Until that moment, as a typical self-centered teen, I’d viewed the Cuban missile crisis evacuation as an adventure. Now reality struck. Her question offended and sobered me. The next three months in that school, before we returned to GITMO, became the real crisis for me.

Do you have such a story?

About the Author
Zoe M. McCarthy believes that opposites distract. Thus, she spins Christian contemporary romances entangling extreme opposites. Her tagline is Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites. Her first novel is Calculated Risk. She has two other contemporary romances and a nonfiction book to help writers ready their manuscripts coming out soon. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She enjoys leading workshops on the craft of writing; speaking about her faith; planning fun events for her 5 grandchildren; and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband, John. 
Calculated Risk
by Zoe M. McCarty

Learn more about Zoe M. McCarthy at her website: http://zoemmccarthy.com

Calculated Risk

What happens when an analytical numbers man meets a mercurial marketing Rep? Romance is a calculated risk…

Jilted by the latest of her father’s choices of “real men,” Cisney Baldwin rashly accepts an invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend with a sympathetic colleague and his family. Nick LeCrone is a man too much her opposite to interest her and too mild-mannered to make her overbearing father’s “list.” Now, Cisney fears Nick wants to take advantage of her vulnerable state over the holiday. Boy, is she wrong.

Nick wants little to do with Cisney. She drives him crazy with all her sticky notes and quirks. He extended an invitation because he felt sorry for her. Now he’s stuck, and to make matters worse, his family thinks she’s his perfect match. He’ll do what he can to keep his distance, but there’s just one problem—he’s starting to believe Cisney’s magnetism is stronger than he can resist.

Purchase links for Calculated Risk: http://zoemmccarthy.com/books


  1. Zoe, your story is fascinating. I think you could definitely spin it into a novel. I have no such story. I lived in the same house the first 18 years of my life. Wonderful but not adventurous.

    1. Terri, perhaps God gave you an understanding of home. Moving every two years, I tended to write off friends and get on to the next set.

    2. Loved reading your story, Zoe. We moved to Texas for my last two years of h.s. That changed my life in several ways, but not quite as dramatic an alteration as yours. Have you learned Spanish...that's MY question!

    3. Hey Gail,

      My husband and I always call Hola! to the other when we come home and enter the house. That's about it. I know how you felt, Gail, with your move to Texas. I moved from Cuba to Westfield, NJ for my senior year. 600 seniors to the 50 in GITMO. Tough. My mother was my best friend.

    4. YEs. We had 24 in my Iowa class, around 500 in TX. I pretty much shrank inside myself! My best friend....well, I sang to our dog on long walks in the evenings.... (:

    5. Gail, we had the same situation. My last two school years were spent in Texas after all the previous ones in the same Indiana town. That was so tough, especially with the growth of the Texas school!

    6. It's hard for teens to adjust in moves in high school. The cliques have already been formed.

  2. Your post resonates for me in that of the persecuted Christians and their need for on-going prayer and support. Even those who've escaped bad situations, encounter homelessness, loss of a means to make a living, and even loss of family.

    1. Peggy, I agree for the ongoing prayer and support for those uprooted from their homes for any reason. Persecuted Christians are on my prayer list, and we do the tiny thing of making and distributing blessing bags to the homeless. I sure appreciated the donated coat and won't forget that kindness!

    2. What an incredible post, Zoe. Lots of ideas there for a non-fiction book. Wow! Nope, I've lived a pretty boring life! xo

    3. Tanya, you and others may have such a story in your hometown. We don't have to leave the country or home to have an interesting story. I think of farmers trying to make it through a drought or a town flooding or hit by a hurricane. Or it might be dealing with a foreclosure or a loss. Or it could just be in love with a guy who doesn't know we exist. OR it could be a woman who has more than 5 books published. An author! Ahem.

  3. Fascinating story, Zoe! I lived in the same house from birth to age 12 and in the same town until I was 20. Not exactly exciting, but I appreciate that I never felt uprooted or threatened by sudden upheaval in the way that you did. I agree with others, though...it sure could make a wonderful novel!

    1. Hi Delia, Maybe I'll have to write another post about when I lived in Haiti at age 10 at the rise of Papa Doc or maybe when at 20 I lived in Bangkok during the Vietnam war. A book might just be in one of them.

  4. Wow! what a story! Thanks for sharing, Zoe. Like others who commented, I lived a quiet, sheltered life growing up in a small Wisconsin town until I left for college. I didn't experience any adventure until much later in life.

    1. But I actually used that small town's setting and history as inspiration for my historical romance series - so I guess we can find stories wherever we are.

  5. Hi Dawn, I believe that too. A story may take place in a house, a hospital, or a jungle.

  6. I feel for you moving into a new school in such scary circumstances. I think there's a YA book in there, Zoe.

  7. Hi Barbara, that's passed through my mind.


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