When I was growing up, my brother Manny and I, along with the neighborhood kids, would play in our backyard pretending to be characters in made-up adventures. On one day, we were daring archeologists who would travel the world looking for artifacts that unleashed terrible flesh-eating spirits, the next day we were astronauts that teleported from one planet to another encountering strange new worlds and civilizations. We developed the stories as we went along and made up rules to make sure we were not killed off too quickly and forced to sit out the rest of the game.
Our creativity knew no bounds turning trees into forts and bicycles into spaceships. Every day was a different story and every story a different adventure. With one exception. In every make-believe game, I would insist that my character’s name be “Steve.” It wasn’t Steve because of the first martyr of the Church or Steve because of the nerdy guy in San Francisco who in his garage developed the first Apple computer. It was Steve because of Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man.
In the late ‘70s, when television was my favorite babysitter, the show about the astronaut turned human cyborg was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t wait for Friday nights. I can still recite today Oscar Goldman’s words at the beginning of the program: “We can rebuild him, we have the technology, we have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.” Even now at 47 years of age, whenever in the water at a pool or beach, I find myself running in slow motion humming the theme song.
I wonder why the concept of that show was so exciting. Maybe it was just the greatness of the possibility that science could actually create such a better, stronger, faster man. Maybe it was the action, the fights, the slow-motion leaps and runs. Or maybe, at a much deeper level, it was the fascination of imagining that in a moment of apparent disgrace, the human mind and spirit could create something greater. The fact that from such terrible adversity there can be generated greater hope and possibility.
The two recent natural disasters that have struck a serious blow to our nation is an example of that. Both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma have wreaked havoc on the people of Houston and South Florida. And yet in both cases, we have been privy to stories of great heroism, sincere compassion, and extreme generosity on the part of thousands. It seems that mankind is made more aware of its great potential exactly when disaster strikes. We rise to the occasion.
This is the reason why our efforts at Belen Jesuit to help those in need in Houston raised over $15,000 for relief to the families at Cristo Rey High School. It is the reason why here in Miami many Belen families, alumni, and faculty have volunteered at shelters in FIU and all over the city. It is also the reason why over 350 Belen students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff showed up early Thursday morning, many whom did not even have power or running water in their own homes, to clean up their second home. We rose to the occasion.
Already at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, the day after the storm, Mr. Ricardo Echeverría ’84, our Director of Plant Operations, Mr. Orlando García, our Director of Maintenance, and Mr. Ariel Nuñez, our Janitorial Director, along with several of the staff were at Belen Jesuit assessing the damages. They rose to the occasion. We thanked them and sent them back to take care of their families and homes, but early Tuesday morning they were back and ready to work.
I received many calls and emails these days from the presidents and principals of our brother schools throughout the country. Each offering words of encouragement and whatever help we needed to get back on our feet. I told them that we were very blessed and felt strongly we were under the protection of Our Lady of Belen. We were counting our blessings because even though there was great damage to our properties, our families are alive and well. I commented to each one, "if a tyrannical government was not able to stop us in the past, Irma cannot either." And so, we will not only rise, but thrive. Because of such adversity to a community that is passionate and convinced of the good that we have been endowed with, we will emerge better, stronger, and faster than we were before.
To all of you who helped on Thursday morning, thank you! Your work helped us get ready to reopen our doors so that life can get back to normal and our young men can continue their education and their formation as men for others. To those of you have prayed for us and the victims of Hurricane Irma, thank you! The power of prayer is a very real thing and the backbone of our life as men and women of faith. To our maintenance crew and staff, thank you! Once again, these men and women of Belen Jesuit have worked tirelessly to make sure every fallen tree was cut, every leaked plugged, every generator ran, and every hallway swept.
It goes without saying you are all worth much more to Belen Jesuit than a mere six million dollars.