This weekend I watched a video clip of The Today Show with Sean O'Keefe. He was one of the four suvivors in the plane crash this summer that claimed the life of former Senator Ted Stevens and four others. I had followed the story as it was unfolding and was aware of most of the details but hearing it from the perspective of the survivors was chilling. As one who has flown all my life it is definitely one of my worst and most justifiable fears.
One of the most striking comment from Mr. O'Keefe was this: "The degree of separation between survival and not was a fraction of what you'd ever imagine and it could have been anybody....the randomness of this whole experience was such that ... any doubt you have about divine intervention goes away."
He describes the long night in the cold temperatures and pouring rain. He and his 19 year old son Kevin, a 13 year old Willy Phillips, the son of lobbyist William "Bill" Phillips Sr., who died in the crash and lobbyist Jim Morhard were at the tender mercies of one woman doctor who had rushed to the scene. The weather prevented any more rescue planes from getting in. They were all in incredible pain and her supplies were limited. She knew all the passengers including the five that perished, the pilot was her next door neighbor. I just think of her strength, being dropped into the wilderness not knowing what she find at the crash scene, and then having to do what she could for the four suvivors while mourning the loss of those that died. They spent the night shivering and praying and trying to hang on. At one point in time she described looking through her backpack and something hit the floor, it was a metal pill box that she carried with her because of her now deceased mother's migranes and it contained some Valium and Demoral. It was all the pain medication she had and it literally dropped out of nowhere. She had forgotten it was even in her bag.
Another hero of that night was Willy. He had a broken ankle (and other injuries) but was the only one mobile at all. He was able to leave the aircraft and his waving his brightly colored shirt is what helped the doctor locate the wreckage. Can you even imagine the panic that must have been surging up his throat, a city boy, only entering his teens, thrown in this nightmare so far removed from anything he could imagine. His dad had just died yet he rose to the challenge and helped facilitate their rescue.
I cannot imagine the immeasureable ways their faith sustained them through that long and miserable night. I cannot imagine the strength and comfort they felt knowing their Lord and Savior was with them, that they were not alone. An example of that is Mr. O'Keefe's comment that once he was finally on the rescue helicopter on his way to an Anchorage hospital, only then did he allow himself to let go and he passed out. Somehow a courage he had never known, a strength he had never tapped into, had kept him awake for more than twelve hours, suffering unspeakable pain but knowing he had to stay alert to survive. The presence of God in that rescue was indisputable.