I had just stepped off the aircraft when my roommate told me Susanna was in the hospital. The Chief told me to leave so I ran to my car and headed for Puerto as fast as I could. When I arrived, the sister on duty showed me to Susanna’s room. I stood outside the door a moment, afraid to see her hurt, but she appeared okay, sitting on the bed and watching her friends and their visitors. I felt a pang of sadness when I saw she was alone, no one had come to see her. I must have made a sound as I entered the room, because she turned, saw me, and the brightest smile I ever saw lit up her face. She jumped off the bed and ran around the end and leaped into my arms. Oh my, I wept when I held her. She laughed and cried, and wouldn’t let go of me. I don’t know how long I held her but the rest of the people in the room just stood and stared, amazed, I guess, at Susanna’s reaction. I had only met a couple of her friends, and knew none of their visitors. I set Susanna on the bed and sat next to her. She held my arm like she thought I would leave. I didn’t want to leave. Ever. The nurse soon came and told me visiting hours were over. I left with the promise that I would come back the next day.
I never saw Susanna alive again. Work prevented me from leaving the base for several days; it’s been so long, I don’t recall how many days passed before I found out Susanna had died. Pneumonia. She entered the hospital after suffering minor bumps and bruises in a car accident on the Jerez Road, and died less than a week later.
The funeral was surreal. Susanna’s tiny, frail body barely filled the small coffin. Her white face stood out in stark contrast to her black hair. Her porcelain-like hands were crossed over her breast. I walked to the vault with the mourners and watched her casket go in. Then I watched as they placed bricks over the opening and shut me away from Susanna forever.