Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Puerto Iguazu & Iguazu Falls

This is a true story.

Jack’s father left when he was only 1 year old.  But, thanks to the wonders of the Internet Age, he was able to find the father he never knew when he turned 17.  Fernando, 57, was living in Puerto Iguazu with his young Argentinian wife and his two beautiful daughters, aged 4 and 7.  After two years of emails and Skype, Jack decided he wanted to venture to Argentina to meet Fernando.

Mike was a family friend of Jack and had known him since he was only 9 years old.  And, as a Continental Airlines employee, he was able to arrange transport to South America that Jack wouldn’t have been able to afford on his own.  He also convinced his friend and co-worker Siggy to tag along for the ride.  Why not take a 5-day jaunt to see one of the 7 natural wonders of the world and also be part of this cool reunion?

Orlando to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu.  After hitting the ground, Jack anxiously walked through the arrivals area scanning for Fernando.  Then he hears a voice behind him.  “Jack!”  He turns and there is Fernando and the two girls.  Hugs, kisses – the moment.  The reason why.  Handshakes and more hugs and kisses for Mike and Siggy.

While Jack and the girls go to get the bags, Fernando excuses himself to go sit down.  Jack doesn’t speak any Spanish and the girls don’t speak English, but they carry on like brother and sisters.  Bags arrive, everyone mounts up and they go to where Fernando is seated.  He says, “Let’s go!”

Fernando gets up, takes three steps, momentarily slumps against a concrete column, then falls directly onto his face on the concrete floor.  Massive heart attack.  Cracked skull.  Liters of blood.

One of the girls vomits on Mike.  Jack and the girls run away.  Mike follows.  Siggy, who had never met Jack until they got on the plane, is left with a huge pile of bags and Jack’s father laying face down in a pool of blood.

Paramedics arrive and Siggy helps them to turn the body onto a backboard.  Fernando moves his arms momentarily and then is still.  They make the long and painful drive to the hospital, but Jack’s father was dead the minute he hit the floor.


I spent 3 days with these men, arriving the day after all of this had happened.  We spent many hours together – laughing, crying, drinking, talking, processing.  I met the beautiful young widow.  I talked to the gorgeous little girls who had just lost their father.  I watched the video of the reunion that Siggy had taken, and, although the death itself was not recorded, you could feel its shadow in the eyes and the mannerisms of Fernando.

Truth is always stranger than fiction, they say, and I am inclined to believe it.  I couldn’t invent a tragedy such as this.  And I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to be part of it, given the choice.  And, yet, I am forever changed because of it.  Of all the amazing stories I am able to tell after 9+ months, this is the one that means the most.  Because I was able to look in the eyes of these three men and share something unspeakable, and out of it came simply love, compassion, and mutual respect.

I did manage to visit Iguazu Falls, but only remember it by the photos because I was so lost in my own thoughts.  Frankly, a week removed, I am still emotionally raw and struggling to find what this all means to me and why I had to be part of it.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.



As a postscript, I must mention that after the body was carried away and Siggy is standing, alone, with 8 bags and a sizeable pool of blood, a taxi driver ran up to him and said, “Hey man! You need a taxi??”  Welcome to South America, motherfuckers.  It’s quite difficult to literally laugh and cry at the same time, but I think I managed it when Siggy told me that.

3 Responses to “Puerto Iguazu & Iguazu Falls”

  1. kevinpdx says:

    Jesus dude. I thought finding the dead guy when I was 19 was crazy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You hit it on the head brother….

  3. Anonymous says:

    What a sad yet beautiful story and how sad for Jack. I suppose these men will forever be in his life and good friends. He may have lost his Dad but he gained long lasting friendships. God brought all of you together for some reason, so sit back and wait to see what that reason was.

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