In 2018 I published a series of “good will” posts on this blog. I thought they made good reading for the Christmas season. The stories resonated with readers.
Now, as we enter our second COVID Christmas, I wonder if good will is hiding out in the attic or buried at the bottom of the garden. It sure doesn’t seem very evident. We are worn down with restrictions, disappointments, cancelled plans. We are fearful of our fellow human beings — they might give us a deadly virus. We all know more about supply chains than we ever thought possible. Empty store shelves bring home the reality of economies in tatters world wide. There are no choristers singing on street corners, no shop clerks wearing Santa hats and wide smiles. Even if there is a smile, we can’t see it under the mask.
Here, in B.C. we’ve had the added devastation of three “atmospheric rivers” dumping a month’s worth of rain in only a few hours. Rivers have flooded, dykes have been breached. All of the roads leading into Vancouver from the rest of Canada have been closed with mudslides, washed out bridges, and small lakes forming in the driving lanes. This year, it seems we’re in a season of disaster rather than good will.
And yet . . . in the midst of our terrible storms with bridges washing away and landslides sweeping vehicles off the road, comes this story of good will.
A family travelling home on Sunday night was suddenly caught in a massive mudslide that shoved their van off the highway, rolled it twice down an embankment, shattered the windows, covered them in mud and even tore the shoes from their feet. The van came to rest against two trees above a raging river.
Even though one of the passengers, a teenager, was grievously injured the family knew they had to get back up to the roadway before the storm swept away the trees and their tenuous support.
Unbeknownst to the family, they were caught between two mudslides. Outside help could not reach them. Instead, strangers of good will came to the rescue.
Desperate, the father in the car sloshed the mud out of his eyes and mouth, then stumbled up the embankment, crossing a downed power line on the way. He knocked on the window of the first car. Inside was an off-duty ER nurse. She gave him a headlamp, then, while he went back to his family, she organized help.
Marooned on the highway, were not only the ER nurse, but a paediatric nurse, a member of military reserve, a couple with a warm truck who offered shelter to the first child able to get out of the van and up to the highway, and an industrial painter with a van that allowed the most seriously injured teenager to lie down while the nurses assessed him.
The reservist was quick to help but realized an injured boy would not be able to scramble up the embankment on his own. Fortunately, the soldier had a rope in his truck and was able to tie it to a utility pole at the top of the embankment and use it to help the injured to safety. The 6 foot 2 lad with the head injury had to be literally pushed up the bank with his dad and the soldier supporting him from behind and the nurse pulling him from the front and lighting the way with a borrowed headlamp.
Once everyone was back on the road and sheltering in vehicles with kind strangers, a search and rescue team arrived from the closest town. They had to haul their stretchers through the debris field, 75 metres wide, caused by the slide and then, with the stricken boy loaded up, scramble back through the same obstacles to get to the ambulance waiting on the other side.
One by one, the SAR team got the family of five through the slide field and on to safety and medical aid. Father and sons were taken to a small hospital where gashes were stitched up, a broken arm set, and eyes filled with mud and glass fragments washed out. However, the head injury was serious and needed quick attention.
Going above and beyond, a medical team from a hospital on the other side of the blocked road organized to bring their ICU team to the injured teen. Two doctors, a nurse and a respiratory therapist got a police escort over flooded roads and a gravel pit to the train tracks. A railway vehicle then drove them to the small hospital, where they treated the teen, who had a skull fracture and a jaw broken in two places. Once the lad was stabilized and the immediate danger to his life passed, they got through to the air ambulance who air-lifted him to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
The rest of the family was fed and clothed and sheltered by strangers in the small town.
Today, the family swept up in the landslide is safely at home, recovering from their injuries and looking forward to Christmas. They are forever grateful to the heroes who put aside their own comfort and safety to rescue them on that awful night.
Peace, good will toward men, the angels sang on that first Christmas night. As the carol puts it, “Still through the cloven skies they come/ with peaceful wings unfurled/ and still their heavenly music floats/ o’er all the weary world. . . “
Surely the angels hovered over those folk of good will on a storm-swept night when a life was saved.