I’m just wrapping up my second week as the features writer for The Post-Star and for the past few days I’ve been wrestling with what to share in this first blog.

Do I reveal that I am the first born of eight? That I lived for several years in Hawaii? That my husband and I left an aging Victorian in Pittsburgh a year and half ago to explore the marvels of this region? That I’ve been a reporter for as long as I can remember? That my most recent newspaper gig was covering crime, justice and investigations? Or that I have an undying weakness for animals, especially when they need rescuing?

In the midst of my turmoil about what to write, I got a text from one of my sisters, now driving north and west with her family in an attempt to escape the winds and damaging waters of Hurricane Matthew. She lives on the water, just north of Daytona Beach and from her message, it seems her house will most certainly flood. And now I can’t seem to get thoughts of hurricanes, destroyed homes and the lives lost out of my head. I thought of the current storm and other storms like Irene or Katrina and how people find ways to survive even the worst of it.

I was reminded of the hurricane my two daughters and I survived while traveling one summer through remote Indian villages along southern Mexico’s western coast, just north of Guatemala. I thought about how I watched the water rising hour by hour as it inched into the room where my girls slept. The fear I felt so far from our Virginia home, especially because we had no car, no way to escape. I watched the wind smatter boats onto the main street of this small village near Puerto Angel. But the storm did pass and oddly in the morning there was sun, despite the destruction left behind. Palapas huts were toppled, roads were washed out and pigs and chickens were running along the beach.

But unlike the hundreds of lives already lost in Hurricane Matthew, all lives were spared. The worst of it for us is that we were trapped in this little corner of the world with no electricity or outside communication. So we made playing cards out of borrowed paper, cut with the scissors hidden inside a Swiss Army knife. And we met others, also unable to move on. People from Australia and Colorado and other parts of Mexico and we celebrated in an odd sharing of surviving a disaster. 

Today, I worry about my sister. We haven't heard if they are safe. But I know she will make it. And I guess that’s what I really want to share in this blog; the power of the human spirit and how it comes through in some of the most difficult times. As part of my new role, I will write about lives and how events, both joyous and tragic shape and change us. And I will do my best to capture life and art in all its forms. So write me. Tell me your story or the story of someone you know. And as I find my way around this beautiful region, I will do my best to weave the details of life and art into words.

— Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli

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Feature writer, photographer

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