Years ago, I watched a movie about the survivors of a Uruguayan plane that crashed in the Andes Mountains. The crash and the survival amazed me, because against all odds, the 16 men who were rescued on December 22, 1972 had survived 72 days on a glacier at 11,710 feet in the bitter cold. The plane, a Fairchild FH-227D, was a chartered Uruguayan Air Force plane, designated as Flight 571, carrying 45 people. The flight carrying 19 members of a rugby team, family, supporters, and friends, took off from Montevideo, Uruguay on Friday, October 13, 1972, en route to Santiago, Chile. An error in the pilot’s calculations caused the plane to turn north too soon from the mountain pass it was going through, and put it on a collision course with the mountain peaks on either side of it. There were initially 28 people who survived the crash, but injuries, bitter cold, and an avalanche took the lives of all but the 16 who were rescued. The rescue might never have happened had not Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa make the trek from the glacier known before the crash as the Valley of Tears, in the Cordillera.
Recently I read another book on the flight, called Out Of The Silence: After The Crash by Eduardo Strauch, one of the survivors of the crash. The book was very good, and while it didn’t tell more than the movie had shown exactly, it put a very different perspective on the dire situation of the survivors, and the faith of the survivors and their loved ones, waiting at home for news. The book talked about the many premonitions, visions, and dreams that came out of the endless hours of waiting. It spoke of the several people who had a premonition before takeoff that the plane might crash. It spoke of the mother, who at the time of the crash had a vision of her son sitting in the plane seat covered in blood. She said that he looked like he was sleeping and she knew that he had died…she was right. It spoke of another mother who saw her son with just a bruise on his head, but very much alive. He was, and the bruise was where she saw it. And it spoke of the vivid dream Nando had, of the survivors being rescued by Christmas…which they were.
The book reminded me of times in my own life when I have experienced such “foretelling of things to come.” Because of my deep religious convictions I struggle with things like psychics and I don’t believe in séances or talking to the dead, but rather that God tells us of things to come, a truth which is found in His Word, the Bible. I recalled the time that I was at my mom and dad’s house, and Dad was at work. The phone rang, and I suddenly got an uncomfortable feeling that something had happened to my dad. I discounted it when the call on the phone that seemingly brought the feeling about, turned out to be something else. I went home, and when I got there, my mom called to tell me that a heavy steel beam had fallen on my dad’s foot, crushing his little toe, which is not protected by the steel toe on a boot. I have since marveled at the fact that I had that feeling at the precise time of the accident.
Mom also had such a “telling of things to come” after my Dad became ill in Canada, while they and my sister Cheryl were on vacation, driving on the north shore of Lake Superior. My sisters, Caryl, Alena, Allyn, and I had rushed to Canada to be with the them and hold vigil over our very ill dad. One night, Mom woke us all up saying that we needed to pack up, because we were going to be taking Dad home that day. At the time we thought that she was in a state of crazed delirium, due to the stress and seriousness of the situation. While listening to Nando’s announcement to his friends upon awaking from his dream on that mountain, saying that they would be home by Christmas, it occurred to me that while her timing was off, my mom was right in that Dad would leave that place and come back to his life here.
It is a very strange thing to know that God has spoken to you in such a way, and many people do not even believe that it happened, but too many of these incidences have taken place to discount them. There were several people who worked in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, who were told by God not to go to work that day. Those who obeyed, were later shocked by what took place, and the part they might have played in those events. There was also a woman in the second tower, who when the announcement was made to return to their offices, was told by God to “get out of there and take as many people with her as she could.” She obeyed and saved a number of people who chose to listen to her warning that they must leave immediately. Whatever you choose to call these events, they are real, and while we never know at the moment they come, if we will look foolish for listening to them, or be exonerated when things play out exactly as we saw them…we find ourselves in the position of making a choice to listen or not to…come what may.
In this country, we have been blessed to have people who recognize a national treasure for what it is, and make sure that it gets preserved for people in generations to come to be able to enjoy it too. In my life, I have been blessed to visit many of these treasures, like Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Mountain, Glacier National Park, Niagara Falls, and the Grand Canyon…which was made a national monument on this day, January 11, 1908. Of course, the Grand Canyon was formed thousands of years ago, but it wasn’t until someone looked at it and saw the beauty it could share with so many people, if it was protected from land developers, mining companies, and other such developers who could only see it for its monetary value.
In my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon three times. Each time was significantly different from the others. The first time was as a child, and that trip stands out in my mind as the discovery trip. This was a place I had never seen before and probably hadn’t even thought about, but my parents knew of its existence, and that they wanted their girls to be able to see its glorious beauty. I don’t recall feeling wary of it edges, but that was probably because I was the kid, and not the parent who had the task of watching the kids. I just remember that its red walls were gorgeous, especially at sunset. It was a trip taken almost fifty years ago, but I can still remember how amazing it was.
The second trip I took to the Grand Canyon was in 1986, when my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I took our girls, Corrie and Amy to see it. The trip taken as a mother was one that felt a bit different. My girls weren’t so little, and eleven and ten, that they didn’t stay right with us, but nevertheless, Amy found herself just a little too close to the unfenced edge, and she slipped a little. By the grace of God, she didn’t fall in, but it is an event she still talks about to this day. I think she would go back again, because she was not really afraid, once the moment passed, but she gained a respect for edges like that. As the mom, I determined to put myself between the children and the edge from that point on. We still very much enjoyed that trip, but it was very different from either of the others.
The most recent trip Bob and I took to the Grand Canyon was in April of 2009, and it was probably the most fun trip of the three. We didn’t have to worry about little ones, and we were both in good shape. We hiked the southern edge of the canyon, and went down into it at both ends of the trail. It was an amazing trip. Looking at the canyon from the top is awesome, but there is something about being down inside it that will always live in my memory files. It wasn’t that the canyon looked so very different when you were inside, but rather that you were inside the Grand Canyon that made that event special. I loved being able to go down the trails and through the tunnel we found there, and see the magnificent beauty up close. It was an amazing trip, and I happily would go again. The Grand Canyon is unforgettable.