Every nerve in my body shrieked with
pain when I awoke, but I knew I had to find water and food, or we
would still die. I was the oldest, and until we found someone to
help us, it was up to me to take care of the others. "God! I don't
know what to do! You're going to have to lead me and show me which
way to go and what to do," I prayed.
I sat up and looked around. Sarah
was already awake. Before the tragedy she had been a pretty little
girl maybe just a little small for her eight and a half years. She
had long dark brown hair, a dark complexion, bright smiling brown
eyes, and a perpetual smile between her dimpled cheeks, without a
care in the world. Now, the smiles were gone. Blood and tears
streaked her dirty, salt-covered face. Seaweed entwined her tangled
hair. Her frilly blue dress was in shreds. It had definitely not
been designed for the torture it had been through, but what had?
She sat quietly weeping, looking out over the sea.
Seven-year-old Debbie, with her
shoulder length, brown, tangled hair, and blond, curly headed Julie,
almost six, lay sleeping some twenty feet beyond Sarah. Debbie and
Julie both closely resembled Sarah. They had similar smiling brown
eyes, bright smiles, dimples and soft rosy complexion. That was
before the tragedy. Now, there was no beauty. Their bruised,
bleeding, twisted bodies, huddled together on the beach. The new
dresses they had been so proud of, bought especially for the trip to
Grandma's, like Sarah's, were rags. I thought they were dead when I
first looked at them; but then, I saw them breathing and heard them
whimpering and crying in their troubled sleep. They're alive.
At least we have hope. How many of their bones are broken?
"God! What are we going to do?" Suddenly, the whole world landed
on my shoulders. I realized the magnitude of my responsibility.
What am I going to do? How can I save these children? God! You
gotta help me!
My little brother Jamie, who was
almost eight, slept a few feet beyond the girls. He was much
smaller than I, but was often accused of being my miniature twin; we
looked so much alike. He was a little fairer, had a few more
freckles across the bridge of his nose, and his sandy hair had a
little more red than mine. All five of us were thin, but had that
well fed look. Jamie was also breathing and whimpering for our
mother in his sleep. His body, though bruised and bleeding, did not
appear to be broken and twisted like the two smaller girls.
I looked at myself. I was not in
much better condition. My pants were in shreds. One shirt sleeve
was missing, and the other might as well have been. My arms and
legs were scraped and bleeding. I had one deep cut in the big
muscle on the side of my right thigh. It ran from just below my
shorts to my knee. I knew my leg hurt, but I had not realized that
I was cut and bleeding that badly.
"Are you going to be all right?" I
crawled over to Sarah.
"I think so, but I don't know what to
do. I want my momma and daddy."
"They aren't here, Sarah. Besides
me, you are the oldest. We've got to be brave, and take care of the
others 'til we can find grownup help. I prayed that God would help
"Do you think He will? I've never
prayed for anything like that before. I just say my, 'Lay me down
to sleep' prayer, before I go to bed."
"Sure He will! He answers my dad's
prayers all the time. Now that Dad's gone, He'll answer mine, and
yours too. He knows the mess we're in. Let's wake the others and
go find some fresh water. My throat is on fire."
"Mine too, but I don't
know if I can get up. I hurt so bad!"
"I know how you feel, but if we stay
here, we'll soon be too weak to find water. We'll all die. We need
to go as soon as possible."
Sarah painfully crawled the few feet
to Julie and Debbie, and I managed to get to my feet and walk the
short distance to Jamie. My leg screamed with pain every step I
took, but I had to go on.
"Mommy? Where's Mommy? I'm hungry!
I want my Mommy! It hurts! I'm thirsty!" Julie awoke, crying. "I
want my Mommy!"
"Oh! Mommy, I'm so sick! Help me
Momma!" Debbie joined in. "Where's Momma, Sarah?"
"Momma's not here." Sarah tried to
comfort the little girls. "I want Momma too, but she isn't here."
"Where is she?" Julie wiped the
tears from her face.
"Out there in the ocean, I guess."
Sarah began to weep again. "She's not here."
"Is she drownded?" Debbie asked.
"I don't know. I hope not." Sarah
gazed longingly out over the sea.
"No! No! Mommy's not drownded!
Mommy's not dead! I want my Mommy! I want my Mommy!" Julie's
Momma is not here! And I don't think
she's coming!" Sarah still tried to comfort her sisters. "I'm gonna
have to be your mommy now, and Timmy will be your daddy 'til we find
some grownups to help us. It'll be just like when we play house,
but this time it's for real. You have to do what we say."
"I don't want to play house! I don't
want Timmy to be my daddy! And you're not my Mommy!" Debbie cried
emphatically. "I want my real mommy and daddy!"
While this was going on, I was having
my own problems trying to comfort Jamie. He too wanted his momma
and daddy. I was glad that I only had one brother. But I didn't
just have one brother. I also had three little girls to care for.
Apparently the little girls did not have any broken bones. They
were moving around all right. "God, what am I going to do?" I
Then, with an angry tone in my voice,
I stood up. "Do you kids want to die?"
"No," the helpless girls admitted
between their broken hearted sobs.
"That's what's gonna happen if we
don't find some water and food! Sarah said that me and her's gonna
be the Momma and Daddy, and you have to mind us. That's the way it
is! Now shut up! Get up! And let's go find some water we can
drink!" Why did I say that? That's not something I would say.
That sounds mean. I don't feel that way. I frowned, pondering
what I had said, but my countenance supported the tone in my voice
Whimpering, they all got to their
feet. "I gotta go pee," Julie complained.
"Me too," the others said in chorus.
"Go then!" My tone didn't soften.
It puzzled me. I wanted to cry with them, but I sounded angry.
"You'll just have to go. There is not any bathroom, or even
something to hide behind. Us boys will look one way, and you girls
look the other."
"But I can't go this way." Julie
began to cry again. "I gotta sit down."
"I'll help you," Sarah offered.
"You're gonna have to learn to squat."
With the necessities taken care of, I
felt in my pocket. It was still there, my most prized possession, my
compass with a magnifying glass. Dad had given it to me a month
earlier for my ninth birthday along with the promise to take me
hiking on Mt. Hood when we got home. Now it would be very valuable,
especially the magnifying glass, because I could start a fire with
I looked at the compass. The beach
ran east and west. We were on the north shore. I looked at the
sun; it was high in the western sky. That meant it must be early
afternoon. It had been almost twenty-four hours since we had eaten,
but most important was water. Where could I look for water? A
hundred yards or more from the shore were mountains with trees and
brush on them, but that did not mean there would be any water.
"God," I prayed, "which way do we go?" Then, I remembered that
streams and rivers always flow into the ocean. Maybe there would be
a little river flowing down from the mountains. If we followed the
beach, we might find one. I looked at my compass again, and decided
to walk eastward. "C'mon, let's go this way." I started to lead my
crying family along the beach.
As I did, there was a terrible
commotion in the ocean. The dolphins that had been playing off
shore, were standing on their tails chattering, like they were
trying to tell us something. Then, they would flop back into the
water, always swimming westward. When we stopped to watch, they
would settle down, but as soon as we started to go on, the commotion
got worse again.
"I think they are trying to tell us
to go the other way," Sarah suggested.
"Naw. Let's go." I started on. The
chattering began again.
"Wait." Sarah turned around, walking
the other direction. "Let's go back a few steps, and see what
"All right!" I limped after her. My
leg was killing me. I did not want to backtrack. We turned around
and started the other direction. The dolphins settled down and
swam along with us. Once, just to see what would happen, we turned
around and went back a few steps. Sure enough the dolphins got
I could not go on. The cut on my leg
was gaping open and bleeding. "You gotta help me Sarah." I fell to
the sand and tore one of the widest shreds from my pant's leg, and
Sarah helped me wrap it tightly around my thigh. We tied it in
place with a couple of string-like shreds. I got up then and found
it much less painful. It still hurt like fire, but the support of
the bandage helped and kept it from bleeding so badly.
We continued walking west for, maybe,
a half hour when the beach turned a little to the south. It was
like the island had come to a point there at one time, but somebody
had taken a huge knife and cut off the point right down to sea
level, and left a sheer cliff rising up from the narrow beach. Near
the middle of the cliff was a waterfall. Everyone started for the
"Wait! Let me see if it's good
to drink." I stepped into the little pool where the water fell and
tasted it. It was salty, but not as salty as the ocean. Then I
caught some of the falling water in my hands. It was fresh and
cool. "C'mon." I stepped under the waterfall and let it flow over
my sore body. The others joined me. We were in a frenzy fighting
for the water. It fell so far, it hurt when it hit us, but we soon
got used to it. It was not long before we started to feel better.
I removed the bandage from my leg, and let the running water wash
the salt and sand from the wound. I washed the bandage and tore
some ragged strips from Julie's white skirt, to put against my
wound, and washed them.
The beach was wet, and as Sarah and I
rebandaged my leg, I saw bubbles in the sand. I knew that could
mean clams. I showed the others, and we started digging. The two
smaller girls were too slow, but before long Jamie, Sarah and I had
a couple dozen clams.
That should be enough for now." I
picked up several, looking for a rock to break them. "I hope you
like raw clams."
"Yuk!" Sarah gagged. "We can't
"All right! You're the momma!" The
idea was repulsive to me too. "You can cook'em!"
"But, I don't know how."
"Neither do I. If you're hungry
enough, you'll eat'em raw. I've heard lots of people like'em best
that way." My voice still sounded angry. I did not feel that way.
"How are we going to open them?"
"Like this." I laid one on a large
rock, and hit it with another.
There was a lot of gagging and
choking, but it wasn't long until the clams were gone. We tried to
dig some more, but the holes filled with water as fast as we could
dig. I realized the tide was coming in, and probably, this beach
would be covered with water in a little while.
"C'mon." I started back the way we
had come. "Let's go to the top of the waterfall. The tide is coming
in. This beach will be flooded in a few minutes."
"How do we get up there?" Sarah
"We'll go back around the corner of
the beach, and climb up the mountain. Let's go." My leg hurt so
badly; I wanted to sit down and cry, but I had to keep going. Four
children depended on me. Only God could have given me the
supernatural courage, strength, determination and maturity to put
the needs of others ahead of my own desires.
When we got to the top of the cliff,
we could see up the beach where we had landed and a long way out to
sea. There was nothing but water, sand and jungle. Nothing moved
on the side of the mountain, but birds. Occasionally, we heard the
scurrying of small animals. It was enough to frighten us. We
didn't know what kind of wild creatures we might find. Jamie was
just sure we would be attacked by lions and tigers and bears all at
the same time. That really frightened the girls, but I told them
God did not save us from the sea to be eaten by wild animals. Just
the same I would try to light a fire to keep the wild animals away
when we found a place to camp.
"How are you going to do that?" asked
"By magic. The sun is going to come
down here and set some dry leaves on fire."
"Oh, sure it will."
"It will. Just wait and see. I'll
use the sun to start a fire."
When we got to the stream, we found
it was not a good place to camp. I was disappointed because I
thought we'd be in a place near water, where we could look out over
the beach, but the undergrowth was too thick. It almost covered the
stream. I looked down over the waterfall. The waves were already
lapping against the cliff wall, and there were our life jackets
floating in the surf. It was the first time I had thought about
them since we had taken them off to take a shower. I had meant to
keep them because they might be useful for something, but it was too
late. I knew I could not get back down there before they floated
away, and I would not consider leaving the others alone in the
"Look at all the beautiful flowers."
Debbie picked some and poked the stems into her matted hair. "Don't
I look beautiful?"
I paused a moment to look. Debbie
had found the one bright thing about the place. I had not even
noticed the abundance of color, but I could not help appreciating
the beauty of the jungle. Flowers, large and small of every
conceivable color, adorned the drab brown and green underbrush.
"Yeah, they do make you look prettier, Debbie."
The stream was not very deep, but the
rocks were hard on our tender bare feet. Out of ten shoes that had
left the wing of the airplane, only one, Jamie's, had made it to
shore, and he discarded it when he awakened.
We waded up the stream that snaked
generally to the southeast, hoping to find a good place to build a
camp. I looked at the sun. It was beginning to settle in the
west. We still had a few hours before dark; however, if I was going
to start a fire it had to be soon.
Jamie and the girls were so good.
They, too, must have had divine help. I knew they hurt as badly as
I did, but they did not complain much as they followed me. I wished
that I were as confident as they seemed to be. I did not know what
we were going to do, and they all expected me to know everything.
"I'm not going to wear this thing
anymore." Sarah removed her dress and threw it into the brush.
"Why not?" I asked.
"It got caught on a limb again, and
tore all the way up to my armpit. It's so ragged, it doesn't cover
me up anymore."
"Me neither," Debbie and Julie both
slipped out of their ragged dresses.
"You'd better keep them," I advised.
"They will help protect you from the sun, if you get sunburned.
They're not torn too badly where the life jackets were. That's the
main part that gets sunburned."
"All right, but we're going to carry
them," Sarah relented.
"I'm going to take my rags off too."
Jamie stripped to his underwear. "I wish I had my shoes, though."
"I think we all do." I rolled my own
rags into a bundle. "It would be easier to walk without these rags
catching on everything, but the brush will probably scratch us."
"I don't think I could hurt any more
than I do now," Debbie maintained.
"Me neither," Julie agreed.
Within minutes after we had removed
our rags, we rounded a bend to find a pool over a couple hundred
feet long and maybe sixty feet wide at one point. At the far end, a
thin sheet of water was falling over another rock cliff about twenty
feet high. Above that, there were no trees except way on up the
steep, rocky mountain. "If we can only get up there, I think we
will find a place to make a camp," I observed. "Sarah you stay in
the back, and make sure the others don't fall in."
We made our way around the west edge
of the pool. Most of the time there was room to walk on the bank,
but a couple of times we had to get into the water to pass an
outcropping of rocks and brush. One time I stepped into a hole over
my head and had to swim a few feet. At that point I gave Sarah what
was left of one leg of my trousers and I held the other, while Julie
pulled herself across. The other children were able to swim the few
"You're gonna have to learn to swim."
I helped Julie get her balance on the shallow ledge. About twenty
feet before we got to the cliff, a trail branched off to the right.
Actually it was more like a tunnel through the brush. We had to
bend over and crawl through it. The trail led to the south or
southwest for a few yards, then turned southeast again. A few more
yards and we came out of the brush onto solid rock. It was rough
going because we had to climb over some big rock ledges to get to
where the stream was flowing, but we finally made it, and it was
worth all the trouble.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.