Monday, September 14, 2009

By: Cherie Bernatt

Jacob’s fingers burned as he dug feverishly into the snow. Panic coursed through his veins and he tried hard to ignore the pain as he struggled to free his daughter from the snow. He knew she was down there somewhere. He tried to remember exactly where she was standing when the avalanche came.

“Oh God, help me.” He pleaded. “Help me find her!”

He dug deeper, then wider, afraid he was in was the wrong spot. He moved over a few feet and began another hole. He was still hot from the exertion of skiing but his hands were freezing from the contact with the snow. The gloves he usually wore were sitting beside him in the snow, abandoned to give him a better grip as he dug.


There was no response. “SARAH,” he continued to call out as the pile of snow beside him grew. He couldn’t feel his fingertips anymore and knew the blood levels in his hands were dangerously low. If he didn’t find her quick he would loose his fingers and she would die of frostbite. Her tiny eighty-pound body would not survive long buried in the freezing snow.

“Oh God,” he cried, “not my little girl! Don’t take my little girl. Let me find her!” He stopped his panicked digging just long enough to close his eyes and concentrate. “God please,” he begged for the life of his twelve year old. “You are my savior. Save my little girl.”

He looked up into the white sky as tears threatened, his nose stung fiercely from the wind. “God please.”

He dug further to his left and saw his first glimpse of pink! Sarah’s snowsuit. Hope exploded through his body filling him with extra-human speed. In an instant he had her uncovered, out of the hole and laying on the ground.

“Sarah,” he rubbed her cheek. It was cold. Her eyes were almost closed, and she was groggy and unresponsive. He had to get her warm, and fast!

He unzipped his coat and picked her up. He hugged her as close as he could to his own body to share his warmth then pulled the sides of his coat around them both. He couldn’t zip it up, but he didn’t care. She was close to him and would be able to get her to safety.

He left the skis and gloves and ran. Sarah’s legs flopped loosely against his own as he ran towards the backwoods ski cabin. Their rented winter cabin was just inside the tree line. It had a breathtaking view of the steep mountainside and was close enough that Jacob had succumbed to his daughters pleas that morning to watch him ski rather than help his wife make breakfast.

He kicked himself for being so stupid. He should never have let her stand at the bottom of such a steep slope alone, especially when new snow had fallen the night before and he was unsure of it’s stability.

“Rachel!” He yelled for his wife as he neared the cabin. He felt Sarah’s breath on his neck and thanked God for signs of life.

“God, Thank you.” He whispered as he ran. Let her be okay. He prayed silently.

Rachel opened the door and terror spread across her face the instant she saw them. “What happened?” She stepped backwards as Jacob burst across the threshold.

“Heating blankets, get the heating blankets,” he ordered. Rachel disappeared into the bedroom to get them while Jacob rushed Sarah to fireplace. He tore off her snowsuit and starting massaging her limbs, trying to increase circulation.

He looked for any reaction on her face. She had to be okay; She wasn’t down there very long. And God, … God would make her okay.

Jacob inspected her limbs and her digits as he massaged them. Nothing white or yellow, that was promising. No frostbite. But hypothermia was still a very real possibility. Just a few minutes buried in the snow could severely lower a person’s body temperature.

The massaging was helping, so was the heat from the fireplace and the heating blanket Rachel had placed over her little body. Color was returning to her face and Jacob could feel a strong steady pulse at her neck.

He and Rachel joined hands and prayed, “Dear God, thank you for letting her be alive. Please show us; … let us know she is okay. Please.”

Sarah’s eyes slowly opened.


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