HOPE IN THE FIRE

By Nadiel McPhatter 

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Living a double life as a displaced high school student and a politician’s (East Orange’s Councilwoman Andrea McPhatter’s) daughter can be difficult. Managing my personal life and explaining my story is sobering. Just like any ordinary teenager, I have a story. 

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey destroying thousands of homes. In the days following the hurricane, many homes were lost to fires including my family home, which is located at 227 Midland Ave., East Orange.

To this day, I am still trying to grasp this moment. Like most, many were without electricity and heat for over a week. I could not imagine another day without electricity and separation from the outside world. I headed to my Godfather’s house in West Orange.

As I packed for the weekend, little did I know this would be the last time I would see my bedroom.

While I was enjoying normalcy that night, my family was home confined to the kitchen around the oven. My little sister was cold, sleepy, and just wanted to get in her bed, but my mom insisted that she remain with the family. That night, the power was restored leaving our family elated, believing the worst had passed.

Only minutes later, dark black smoke engulfed the house. A fire started in the wall between my sisters and brother’s bedroom and my life was changed forever. I imagine in horror and thank God that they were not in bed before the power restored, otherwise we would not just be mourning the loss of our home but the loss of my siblings.

The first days of being homeless shook my sense of reality as I accepted that every trace of my childhood was lost. My reality grew worse as I watched our very private and personal hardship play out in the media. My mother’s political adversaries took this opportunity to try to oust her from her Council seat. As my family suffered through the “Game of Politics", I struggled to start a new life in a new school, regain my sanity and move in Faith that God had our backs.

Before the hurricane, I was a typical high school student who took basic things for granted, however I have learned that nothing is promised. Some things are here for a season, and God has His purpose in all things. Perhaps that fire created another inside of me, so in this time I made the decision to accept that God was preparing me for a higher purpose that includes a life of service and creating a change in the world around me. I realize that being in need gave me the ability to see the need in others around me and opened the door to experience humility, which creates impact and true change.

In my adversity, I have found vision and purpose. As a politician’s daughter, my peers are always watching, so the example I try to set is that you can never give up. I found true strength that only God can provide because

through the fire, I found there is always hope. This is what my community needs and this is what they now see in me. I have learned as long as you are willing to surrender, you will always walk in purpose.

I am still living independent from my family. However, I will cherish these last few months of high school, time with my immediate, and extended family. I discovered an inner strength that was ‘Birthed out of the Ashes” and

realized that I am an independent, determined and focused young women who is humbly appreciative of life. It finally occurred to me - God allowed me to go through this trial to reveal the impossible. I now see the bigger

picture that “Everything Is for a Season”, and only God knows the reason. 

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