Wednesday, December 06, 2006

reflection on a tragedy

a couple weeks ago i started reading the local news more regularly. around this time, the news that a local family had turned up missing in oregon showed up as a top story. after nine days, the mom and her 2 young children were found in surprisingly good shape in the car, and a serious search continued for her husband who had left the car to find help. the news just broke today that after expecting to find the husband alive, they found his body.

this story has been on my mind the past week, and while walking today, i did some heavy probing to figure out why. yes, it's a tragic story that tugs at many emotions--fear, hope, sadness--but for some reason it was a constant in my mind, and i wanted to think hard about why. on the surface, there's a few common threads:

+ the store the couple owns is down the street from our apartment.
+ i've relied on james' cnet reviews.
+ my brother is a rescue volunteer in the colorado rocky mountains who has been involved in similar situations, rescuing people who are alive and those who have perished.
+ my sister lives in the mountains and goes on road trips in cars barely road-ready in all kinds of weather.

i've also been thinking a lot about how ill-prepared i am for situations like these. i rely heavily on my new-ish car and my charged cell phone. after leaving minnesota, i stopped carrying ice scrapers, heavy mittens and hats, blankets, duct tape, flashlights, a solar blanket, matches, and candles in my trunk. today i have hiking boots, binoculars, and a hammock--nothing that would help me in a dangerous situation.

soon after the story broke, it was learned that a woman who spoke with the family in oregon cautioned them against a road they had planned to take, as it was under-used and treacherous in bad weather. she added that the family had found the scenic route using a computer mapping system, and she had encountered many people who had done the same. all of this reminds me again of how reliant we are on technology--maps, cars, phones, and so on--and how important it is to go offline and consider a scenario without access to technology, and then prepare for it. the woman and her children were not found by a telephone call, or by their fancy car. they were found by ingenuity: she fastened reflective tape to an umbrella, and waved it to a hoovering search helicopter.


Michelle said...

I have been watching this story from Copenhagen as well. I was also asking myself why this story, and came up with similar thoughts to yours. He was a technical editor! It happened in Oregon, near places I've been. And I think the other thing is that you can kind of see how this might happen. I like to think I would have turned around before I got so far down a bad road, but how many times have I not even thought much about a risk because everything turned out okay? (I did read that a blip on their phone from a text message they received helped searchers narrow in on the area where they were stuck, and then the umbrella enabled them to spot the family.)

pb said...

I read your post a few days ago. I find it interesting how many different people find themselves connected to this story. My connection comes as a mother. I can't help but think of myself and my two little girls-stranded. Cold. Afraid. How would I keep my oldest from knowing the seriousness of the situation? How long could I keep up the charade? Then the simple but necessary activities. Where would she go potty? How would I explain that we don't have food? I can hear my little one saying "eat, mommy, eat". She has never longed for food a day in her life. What if I died before them? I cannot imagine the guilt I would feel having made such a stupid mistake to get us in the situation. After all, isn't our number one job to keep our children safe? Dan and Kenzie once went hiking with another dad/daughter duo. They decided to take a different trail coming back down the mountain. When they got to the bottom of the mountain, they didn't know where they were. They ended up walking miles until the sun went down and they were able to see lights to guide them to a home. They were forced to knock on a stranger's door and ask for help. Dan sheltered Kenzie from his fear by teaching her all of the lyrics to Frosty the Snowman. I was home, pacing, knowing they were not in the car, knowing they had to be wandering somewhere in the woods. Two hours of darkness passed before I got a call that they were safe. I cried-tears of relief, tears of anger. Kenzie still doesn't know they were lost in the woods. She remembers it as the hiking trip where she rode piggy back, sang the Frosty song, and rode in a strangers pickup truck without a car seat. We will tell her the REAL story when she is old enough to set out on a hike without us! Perhaps a little fear will keep us all out of trouble.