Most people have seen aircraft carriers from the shore. Unless you are military or an affiliate of the military, you truly don’t understand the complexity of any Navy Ship. The air craft carrier is the largest ship floating. It can hold up to 10,000 people and for the most part it is it’s own city on water. Everything that you can think about needing or even wanting, you can get on the ship. There are several decks to this ship. Four levels are underwater. There are elevators that bring the actual fighter jets to the tarmac. Essentially, what I am trying to say is that this is not just a weapon on water, it is the largest maze of confusion. There are no signs to direct you which way to go. You have to be in the know and you have to know how to understand codes and numbers so that you can navigate throughout this ship. On each corner or stairwell there is a code. This code will tell you where you are currently located on the ship. It is up to you to figure out which direction you should go next.
I typically only go to certain areas of the ship. Those areas include the physics lab, the launch pad, my sleeping quarters, shared shower room, and the chow room for my meals. All of this means that I very rarely see the outside. I am rarely going through various parts of the ship just to explore. I am here to do a job and I am trying to get it done so that I can hit my target timelines. There are no off days on the ship. Everyone military and non-military persons on the ship works everyday. EVERYDAY!
When I got the message that something was urgent was happening at home, I panicked. Julianna seemed anxious when I would leave for long periods of time. The good thing was that she had Jacinta and Jordan to keep her busy and occupy her time. I made sure that she had any and everything that she and the kids would need while I was away. I told Julianna that she didn’t have to work any longer if she didn’t want to. I figured this would allow her the opportunity to be more involved with the upbringing of our children. When I was growing up, my mother and father worked two full time jobs each. My mother always regretted not being able to spend more time with us as children. I didn’t want the mother of my children to feel this way. I hired a housekeeper to also help her with the chores around the house. I was hoping that this would make life easier on them. I have no idea what the hell could be so urgent that Julianna would send a message for me to call home. The time difference alone is making me feel some kind of way.
I try to manage my way to the communications department. I have only sent small messages via telegram to my company. There is a mail bag that comes to the ship once a week. I usually receive any real direction or information from the mail drop. I can send my correspondence or request for information/ feedback back on the outgoing mail post. But with the note that I have in my hand, I need a phone. It takes a judge and jury to get a phone call from the ship. Logistically, it is analog and the phone signal is not what it would normally sound like if you were calling someone on land. I reach the officer in charge and I tell him my sense of urgency and why I desperately need to use a phone to call home. I am not military but I still have to get clearance from the Captain of the ship. Technically, spies are coming up with more and more equipment to intercept with naval communication. No one outside of my company and the military should know that I am on this ship. This would be a hazard and security risk to know that there were actual civilians aboard a ship.
I sit in the communications room trying not to appear too anxious and too aggressive. The telephone is literally three feet away from where I sit. I am still waiting on the Captain to give me clearance for me to make my call. I wait for literally thirty minutes. I realize that it is 3:00 a.m. I am sure the Captain was sleeping soundly. On a ship, the sway of the ocean is like a lullaby. I am hoping that he will have a certain level of empathy for my situation and not focus on the fact that I got him out of bed this time of morning. He probably had another hour a good sleep to go before it was time for him to wake up and start his day. I just made that day longer and I am not sure how he will react to my request.
There are heavy footsteps marching over the steel grates that serve as the ship’s flooring. I stand out of respect and out of appeasing this man that thinks he is God. He is a healthy stocky man. I am certain from his stance, he is definitely not eating the what they are serving in the mess hall. He is looking like prime rib and baked potatoes with lobster tails. “As you were, I understand that you have a request for an urgent phone call to the States. Can you explain in detail what the matter of urgency and why this phone call must be placed?” I figured he was going to get straight to the point. I have met with the Captain on several occasions. I have even worked with him on a previous tour. He knows me and he knows my work. I don’t ask for much and when I do, it is something that I truly need. This is however, the first time, I am asking him for a personal favor. “Captain, I just received a telegram stating that I needed to call home and that it was urgent. I have never received a telegram from home. If my company is sending me this message, something has to be seriously wrong. I would really appreciate you allowing me to make a phone call to see what it going on.” I pass the Captain the telegraph that has the message typed on it. He reviews it and luckily for me, he decides that it is ok for me to make the call. He also instructs that I have approximately 5 minutes and only one call. I accept his offer and thank him for allowing me to have the opportunity. I understand the risk that we are taking by just making a simple phone call from our ship.
I am patched through several lines until I finally get a high static ring that is calling my house. On the third ring, someone finally picks up the phone. “Julianna! Honey what’s wrong? I don’t have long to talk. Is everything ok? Are you and the kids ok?” The person that responds is not Julianna and I can feel my blood pressure rise. “Mr. Joseph, it’s Ms. Burris. I have the kids here with me and Ms. Mignon. I think you need to come home. We don’t know where Ms. Julianna is.” Now I am in a full blown panic. Ms. Burris gives me a quick run down of the situation and I tell her to call my mother in Atlanta. Tell my mother to come and get my kids. Where the hell is Julianna? I have no idea where she is or what would possess her to leave our children at home by themselves. They have to be scared to death. I hang up the phone and I am running my hands over my face. I want to scream.
“Ms. Garrett, that was Mr. Joseph. He says that we should call his mother in Atlanta and tell her to come and get the kids. He gave me her phone number. ” Ms. Garrett is changing another diaper on Jordan. Denise is in the kitchen trying to look for something to feed the kids. There isn’t any baby food or food that isn’t spoiled or too old for the kids. Denise is thinking the same thing that I am thinking. How can someone do this to their own two children. Ms. Garrett finally responds to my statement. “Ms. Burris, as a school teacher we are obligated to call Social Services when something like this happens. It is up to Social Services to keep these children safe and determine who gets to keep them. We have to call Social Services. ” I understand where Ms. Garrett is coming from, but I don’t come from the “call the police” squad. In Tidewater Park, we have to take care of our own. Even if this means that the kids end up fending from themselves, we don’t call the police.
“Ms. Garrett, I respect your intellect. I really do. But don’t you think that we should at least call Mr. Joseph’s momma in Atlanta? At least she is family and these kids won’t end up in the system.” She stops tending to the baby and looks at me with some defeat. “Ms. Burris, we can call Atlanta, but in the meanwhile, we are going to do the legal thing and call Social Services. For all we know, Julianna needs some help as well. Social Services will help both the kids and Julianna. We don’t even know where Joseph is right now. It may take him some time to get here. We have to call Social Services.” I understand where Ms. Garrett is coming from. So I give her the number that Mr. Joseph gave me for his mother. Ms. Garrett gets on the phone while I hold Jordan. Jacinta runs to my side and you can tell that even though she is only three, she is really worried about her sister and the situation that she is in. No child should have to wonder about these kinds of things. It isn’t fair.
“Hi, my name is Mignon Garrett. I am calling for Susan Jones.” There is a pause and then a woman comes to the phone. “This is Susan, do I know you?” I am already feeling bad that I am having to meet this woman this way. I don’t even know how to explain who I am and how I am in her son’s house with his two children. Hell I am not even related… technically. “Ms. Jones, it’s the kids. We need you to come to Virginia as soon as you can…”