Never Forget.


June 1954: 4 months before

The breathtaking view of the ocean from the shore never ceases to amaze me. However, in my seventeen years of life, which have all been spent in the tiny town of Surfside, North Carolina, I have never known of something quite as magnificent as this sunset. As the ocean roared and its foamy waves momentarily blanketed my toes, the sky erupted into various shades of lilac, magenta, and gold. Before long, darkness plastered itself upon the sky as the sun slipped out of view behind the horizon. The moon ascended into the obsidian sky, and millions of stars dispersed themselves among the blank canvas of the night.

Well, I better be heading on home, I thought. Mom might kill me if I stay any longer.

The sand under my feet merged into pavement, signaling that my destination was just a few blocks away. As I walked, the trees were dancing in the breeze and the nighttime birds were singing. As I approached the front door, everything inside the house seemed to be asleep. Cautiously, I reached for the doorknob. All of a sudden, the door swung open and my mother’s angry eyes locked with mine.

Frozen with fear, I stuttered, “H-Hi, Mom . . . What are you doing up so late?”

“James Bradley. Inside. NOW,” she commanded.

I solemnly went inside while she started to lecture me.

Slamming the door violently, she screamed, “What on earth were you thinking?! You could have gotten hurt, there’s a lot of jagged rocks down there, and nobody would have known. From now on, you can’t go to the beach by yourself anymore.”

“Mom!” I protested, “I’m almost eighteen. That’s not fair!”

“Well that’s just too bad. You shouldn’t have snuck out without my permission.”


October 1954: 3 days before

It was a beautiful fall day in Surfside. The skies were a lovely shade of blue, and puffy white clouds sailed high above the sparkling, aquamarine waves. Rain and cooler weather were predicted in the forecast, but no one would have guessed what was happening in Haiti, just a few hundred miles away. While the townspeople of Surfside were enjoyed the wonderful sunny skies, the Haitians experienced “torrential rains, winds in excess of 125 miles per hour, landslides, and surge flooding,” (Cohn).


October 1954: 11 hours before

I could hear it calling me. It was whispering my name. I couldn’t resist it anymore. It was becoming too unbearable. The palm trees were reaching out to me and trying to pull me closer. I made sure everyone was asleep before I left the house.

Finally, after four months of waiting, I was on the beach again. A cool breeze caressed my skin. The water was crashing against the rocks, and in the distance I could barely make out the silhouette of one of the biggest waves I had ever witnessed. I started to get an ominous feeling in my stomach.


October 1954: 9 hours before

Police officers started going from door to door.

“Evacuate!” one police officer shouted.

Almost instantly, there was widespread panic amongst the citizens. All of the families started to scramble out of their homes, clutching their most prized possessions, racing to their cars. Well, almost every family- the Bradleys were still frantically searching for their son. However, after thirty minutes of searching, Mr. Bradley gave up. His wife, on the other hand, kept searching as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Forget it,” Mr. Bradley demanded, “James isn’t coming back. Get in the car now. We have to go.”

He practically dragged Mrs. Bradley to the passenger seat of their 1954 Chevrolet Corvette and quickly followed the evacuation route.


October 1954: A few minutes before

I started sprinting toward my home. I had fallen asleep on the beach and when I woke up, I saw the biggest storm cloud I had ever seen. I was running out of air, and my lungs were burning like lava. I was so close, but it felt like I was running in slow motion. Everything around me seemed to pass by so slowly. Then I realized something. Where is everyone? I thought to myself. The roads were empty, and cars were left deserted on the side of the road.

I had finally reached my house. I tried to open the door, but it was to no use. It was locked. How could this be? I wondered. I had left this door unlocked when I left. I decided to check the ground floor windows, but they were sealed tightly. There was no way that I could get to the second floor. This is it. I thought. This is the end.

I started running as fast as my legs could carry me. It felt like I was one with the wind, and that I was running at supersonic speed. It seemed as though someone was chasing me. I don’t even know where I was planning on going, but I just wanted to get away as fast as I possibly could.

Then, in the distance, I started to hear a quiet hum. As the sound grew closer, I realized that it was the sound of rushing water . It started to rush towards me, faster than I could ever run. It swelled up around my ankles, and I tried to push myself harder. Everything was burning, and it felt like I was going to collapse at any given moment. My breaths grew staggered, and I started to trip over myself. I was slowly being overcome by the giant wave. The wind swirled violently and rushed around my face. I was being suffocated by the salty air.

The wave crashed over my body, and grabbed me. I was pulled under and I tumbled around like a ragdoll. I struggled to get to the surface, and I gasped for a breath of air. Then I got pulled back under. All of a sudden everything started to flash before my eyes. My family, friends, and the magical days I used to spend on the beach. Oh, the irony. I thought. The thing I loved most is going to kill me. I tried to take another breath, but it was too late. Right before I surfaced . . . everything went black, and my lifeless body drifted along with the storm.


The two remaining members of the Bradley family turned on the radio that sat in the evacuation center. The broadcaster announced that “by 11:00 a.m. on October 14, Hazel reached North Carolina, its winds sustained at 150 mph. It was preceded by a storm surge of 14.5 feet. When it reached [Surfside,North Carolina], it destroyed the entire town, leaving only two of 275 homes habitable” (“About). The broadcast continued by saying that “the death toll for this storm was 81 people,” (“Lives). He concluded with a statement that said, “One body has been identified as seventeen year old James Bradley.”

A single tear went down Mrs. Bradley’s flushed cheeks; her beloved son was gone forever.


Works Cited

“About Huricane Hazel.” Web. 27 March 2016.

Cohn, Scotti. Disasters and Heroic Rescues of North Carolina. Guliford: The Globe Pequot

Press, 2005. Print.

“Lives that were Taken.” Web. 29 March 2016.


“Timeline 1954.” Web. 7 March 2016.

“Weather History & Data Analysis” Web. 9 March 2016.