Thursday, April 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Story of a Storm (and Possibly an Angel)

For "Throwback Thursday," I'm posting a story from my life, which took place in the early winter of 2000-2001 (when I was a senior at Caribou High School, in northern Maine).

("Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind," by John Everett Millais, 1892, oil on canvas; image in the public domain)

Dad and I were driving to school one morning, and we had picked up another high schooler, Megan (a girl from my youth group), along the way. Because her house was out on a back road, we were driving down an empty wooded stretch before connecting to one of the main roads into Caribou. The weather report for that day had been terrible, and already a wild wind was howling. But, as is the way in northern Maine, school almost never gets canceled by weather reports alone, but only by the weather itself. So we plugged on, watching as the wind screamed through the snow-laden woods around us. 

Then, suddenly, we saw a massive tree down ahead, blocking the entire width of the road. We stopped the car and got out to take a quick look at it. It was like stepping into a wild, strange world--the normally quiet woods around us were groaning and cracking, and tiny snowflakes were driven so hard by the wind that they felt like needlepricks on the skin. While we were standing there, on the point of deciding that we needed to turn around and drive all the way back to the other main road, a pickup truck pulled up behind us. It was a local pastor whom we knew, and he too stepped out to get a look at the fallen tree. Just then the most uncanny thing happened: a hundred yards behind us, another tall tree snapped in the wind and fell all the way across the road. We were blocked in on both sides. We stood there for a few moments, unsure of what to do, and all the while we could hear the creaking and snapping of trunks and limbs all around us. There was a sense of urgency in the air--the longer we waited, the more likely it was that another tree could snap and fall towards the car. Thankfully, though, the pastor who was trapped with us happened to have all the necessary ropes and tow cables in his pickup. So he latched on to the first tree and was able to haul it out of the road, and we were on our way again. 

The story didn’t end with that strange episode, though. By the time we got into Caribou, snow had started to fall thick and fast, and finally the school department decided to cancel school for the students, but still to have an in-service day for teachers. That meant that I, still relatively new at driving, had to drop Dad off at the school and then drive back through a howling blizzard the fifteen or so miles to Megan's house. 

The roads were treacherous, but I took it slow, and we plugged along without incident until we were within a half-mile of home. There we were stopped at the back of a small line of vehicles, unable to move forward. I stepped out of the car to see what was going on, and it was clear that an active power line was down across the road. Megan and I sat there and waited for the repair crew for at least half an hour, listening to the radio to pass the time, but there was no movement in the line. 

Finally I decided that we might be able retrace some of our route and then take the local backroads in order to loop around the fallen power line. So we turned around, and I had gotten about five miles back down the road when the car started to slide out of my control. A gust of wind howled past us, creating a complete whiteout in which I couldn’t see anything at all. All orientation was lost--for all I knew, we were about to tumble into the ditch, or into oncoming traffic on the other side. The whiteout only lasted for a couple seconds, and when it cleared and the car stopped sliding, I saw that we were miraculously still in our own lane. But it scared me enough to convince me to turn back around and wait patiently in the line of cars until the power line had been picked up. It was nearly noon by the time I got Megan and myself back to our homes, but we were safe. 

Years later, I heard Dad give an account of this same day. After we had left him at the school, he was understandably worried about us driving in those conditions. He tried to call the house a couple times during the morning, but of course I wasn’t there yet. And then, out of the blue, someone called the high school and asked to speak to him. A man’s voice, whom he did not recognize, came on and told him not to worry, that I was safe, waiting behind a downed power line. The remarkable thing was that, in looking back, I don’t recall anyone coming up to the car and talking to us or checking on us while we were there—no one, to my knowledge, even knew we were there—certainly I never asked anyone to call Dad. This is one of just a small handful of instances in my life where I'm openly willing to put forward the thought of angels as the most reasonable explanation of what happened. In any case, we all got home safe, and we also got a pretty good story to tell from it.