Every once in awhile, I come across a story that tugs at my heartstrings. This is one of them. It is my favorite kind of story because all of us, at some point in our lives have been ‘forgetful brides’.
Continuing with our Great Smoky Mountains trip and now that it has been established that I can, indeed, eat ketchup; we did do more than just hiking and climbing the ‘stairway to heaven’ otherwise known as Clingmans Dome. We also had a few bear encounters, one real and one perceived, both Mamas.
After our trip to Washington, D.C. where we walked a total of 25 miles through heat, humidity, and pouring rain. I didn’t realize but should have, if I was paying attention which I almost never do, that within a week of our D.C. trip; we had planned a vacation with our son and his family to the Great Smoky Mountains. Not only that, we were going hiking::in the mountains::STEEP mountains.
Since our son, Eric, and daughter-in-love, Kylene, had been there before, they planned the whole trip for us. We thought of renting a cabin, when Eric remembered that one of his long time customers at his UPS store, a dear lady named Nancy, owned a condo in Gatlinburg and had told him he could use it any time. He called her, it was available, she sent us pictures, and we rented it for a very generously discounted price. It was decided that Eric and Kylene would drive for the trip and, just like that, we were all set.
The ten hour drive gave us time to talk and laugh and eat and talk about eating. Kylene and one of their boys are gluten free. Knowing I had had some issues with my gut recently Eric asked, “Mom what can you eat?”
“I can’t have refined flour or sugar, but I can have ketchup.”
In my defense, I was still tired from Washington and I guess my brain was not fully communicating with my mouth, but still.
“Oh good, Mom. We can go anywhere as long as they have ketchup.” To say they laughed at me would be an understatement, but it was funny. We ate at a chicken place. Though my son made sure it was available for me, I did not have ketchup.
After our drive, we were all looking forward to relaxing in the condo. The pictures we saw were beautiful and the kids were looking forward to the pool. You can imagine our surprise when we pulled into the condo and saw this…
My first thought, was that the pictures did it way more justice than what we were seeing. My second thought, nay, prayer was…’Please God, don’t let this be it’. While Eric was looking for the lock box that had the keys, we sat in the car quiet, perplexed, and may I say, more than a little bit scared. When Eric finally asked someone about the lockbox, he discovered that we were in the wrong place. We went one driveway too far. Our condo looked like this…
Sweet relief, and yes, that is my husband giving a very happy thumbs up.
The next day we went hiking. I enjoy hiking and I may have told my son that, we could do any hike he and Kylene could do. I may have said that and that would have been a lie. Fortunately, we were limited by their two boys. I will be forever grateful for those little boys and their limitations.
We hiked to waterfalls and went behind them. We hiked through woods and more woods. We hiked to old cabins once lived in and we found out what cantilever barns are, bigger on the top than the bottom. We even got to hone some of our outdoor survival skills. Fortunately, Kylene came prepared with her Travel Toilet Tissue.
Who knew there was such a thing? The fun part was how excited Ky was to finally be able to use it.
Ky and I put it to very good use it. Hiking makes a body thirsty. Being thirsty makes you drink. And drinking all that water makes you have to tinkle, badly. I will be forever grateful for my years of Scouting, though I admit I am still a little jealous of the guys in this area.
After some fairly easy hiking days. We were to take one day and go to Clingmans Dome. “It will be easy,” Eric said. “We drive most of the way, Mom. After we park the car, it’s a short half-mile paved hike to the Dome.” That’s what he said.
Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies. Once you do the half-mile, you have to climb the Dome. Eric may have said this too, but I wasn’t really listening. We had done fine hiking, even though Cliff and I were still fighting colds that we brought home from Washington as souvenirs. But, it was only a half-mile. How bad could it be?
Here’s something I learned…Breathing and walking uphill is a very important skill. It’s pretty much a “thing”. Our half-mile hike was not very long, and it was paved, but it was like climbing the stairway to heaven, straight up. Cliff and I stopped to breathe once or twice. When my son asked me how I was doing, I told him, “My butt cheeks are on fire.” He assured me that I would have a great butt after this, not sure if he meant great in size, which I already have, or great in looks which at almost 60, I don’t really care about.
When we finally made it to the top, all of the difficulties faded as we caught sight of the glory that was before us. The evidence of God’s handiwork surrounded us and made it all worthwhile.
It really is a very big deal…
The traditional 40th anniversary gift is a ruby. I don’t particularly enjoy rubies. We went ziplining instead. But, that is another post for another time.
Forty years, folks, that’s how long it’s been. When I think about the years that have passed, I don’t really remember “not” being married; because at this point I have been married twice as long as I was single. And, essentially, all of my single years were spent in my childhood. I’ve never really been a single adult. If I think about it too long, it makes me feel old.
But, 40 years ago, at the ripe old age of 19, I wrote, “The Story of Cliff and Roxanne.” I found it and post it here for your enjoyment, I hope; because forty years is kind of a big deal!
I remember walking my dog that morning and thinking it was very quiet. There were familiar sounds missing, but I couldn’t think of what they were exactly, so I moved on with my day.
I remember I went home and began to change the sheets in our guestroom.
I remember I did something I’d never done before and haven’t done since. I turned on the radio. I still don’t know why. But, on September 11, 2001 at 9:00 a.m., I did just that. What I heard made me turn on the television to listen to the news.
I remember Katie Couric saying there’d been some kind of an accident and a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. And then, as she was speaking, as they were showing us the North Tower, we watched a plane run into the South Tower and the truth of that day hit us all with a force and a fear that we could not ignore.
Today’s post is not my work. Today’s post is an account from one of the survivors of that day. An inspirational message from Guideposts. A reminder that our God never leaves us or forsakes us…
“Angel in the Rubble” ~ Genelle Guzman-McMillan ~
“Today I still work for The Port Authority as I did when I clocked in at the World Trade Center at 8:05 that Tuesday morning 10 years ago. But now on September 11, I try to take the day off. I want to be in a quiet, peaceful place praying. It is a day I both mourn and celebrate.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had left the 64th floor of the North Tower earlier and escaped unharmed.
What if I hadn’t been buried in debris, the ground falling out beneath me at the 13th floor as I was racing to get out of the building? What if I hadn’t been stuck under rubble for 27 hours before rescuers finally found me? I would have been grateful, but I wouldn’t have looked any deeper at my life.
I would have chalked my survival up to quick thinking or quick moving or plain good luck. I would have gone on with my life avoiding God the way I had ever since I lost my mom to cancer in 1999.
Instead I lay there trapped in the dark after the building collapsed, rethinking my life. I ended up doing what my mom would have done. I prayed.
Well, it was more like pleading, screaming, promising, asking for some sort of miracle until I pushed my hand through a few inches of rubble above my head and felt someone’s warm hand close around mine. Then I heard a male voice say the four sweetest words I have ever heard: “I’ve got you, Genelle.”
I clung as much to his reassuring voice as to his strong hand. “My name is Paul,” he said. “You’re going to be okay. They’re going to get you out soon.”
The ache in my right leg, the throbbing in my head, faded as I held his hand and listened. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” Paul said. “They’re almost here. Hang on.”
Finally I saw a glimmer of light and heard other voices and distant sirens. Two volunteers from Massachusetts, Brian Buchanan and Rick Cushman, found me with the help of a police officer from Canada named James Symington and his search-and-rescue dog Trakr.
“They’re here,” Paul said. “You’re in good hands now. I’m going to go and let them do their jobs and get you out.”
I never felt him release me, but soon I was holding someone else’s hand—a firefighter’s—and talking to my rescuers as they painstakingly removed twisted steel and chunks of concrete from around me and lifted me out. Hundreds of helpers handed me down the pile of rubble to an ambulance.
I heard them cheering, and I kept saying Paul’s name to myself so I wouldn’t forget. I wanted to make sure I thanked him. There were three things I promised God I would do as soon as I got out of the hospital: get baptized, marry my boyfriend Roger and find Paul.
On November 7, after six weeks in the hospital, four surgeries and hours of physical therapy and rehabilitation, I kept the first two promises. Roger and I got married at City Hall in Manhattan that very morning and I was baptized that evening at The Brooklyn Tabernacle.
But Paul? I never found him. Even when a CNN reporter brought me together with my other rescuers, Paul’s identity remained a mystery. He wasn’t the firefighter who held my hand.
That was later when I heard sirens and people began digging me out. Somehow Paul had known my name before I even said a word. Who was he?
I talked to friends about it. I called my pastor and asked him. We spoke about another Paul, the one in the Bible who was totally in the dark, like me, and fought against God until he saw the light. Then we talked about my Paul.
“Genelle,” my pastor said, “Paul did not exist in the flesh. You were asking for a miracle and maybe God sent you his angel.”
You can see why I celebrate and mourn every September 11. I mourn the loss of so many lives, my friends from work, people who walked down the stairs with me and didn’t make it.
Yet there is much to be grateful for. My survival—which still fills me with wonder. My health—I walk with a slight limp that most people don’t notice. My family—Roger and I and our four children have a good life. Most of all, I celebrate my relationship with God.
People can debate whether Paul was an angel or whether it was just coincidence that I was rescued. I know, though, the strong hand that reached out for mine when I was buried alive, the reassuring voice I heard when I cried out for help. Someone called me by name and I have never been the same.”
Thank you for reading my blog! This week I am on vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains with my husband and some of our family. There are stories to tell…
Stories of hiking and ‘zipping’, and bears! Oh my! Please tune in next week for the whole story…same bat time, same bat channel! 🙂