'What's happening?" my husband Pud shouted as we awakened to an incredible rumbling sound. Struggling to gain a foothold, he grasped a small tree while strong winds pulled at his body. Rushing water overtook us and I remember being swept away by it. My next awareness was finding myself on a wet, sandy, river bank with a tree lying across my back. I sensed the shaking earth while the moon shone brightly over the mountain. The vibration and the beating of my heart seemed in steady rhythm. Lying on the trembling ground my heart throbbed, my mind bursting with anxious thoughts for my husband and children. I began to dig myself out from under the tree. Cold, wet, and naked; my clothes had been stripped from me by wind and water. I dug ... rested ... dug ... and rested ... dug more ... and rested ... till at last I could pull myself free. Survival is one's strongest desire.
Hoping to locate loved ones, my naked body shaking with the earth, I called, "Pud, where is everyone?" No answer just dead silence. Where's my baby Susan? She's only five and needs me to comfort her. "Susan, it's Mama where are you? Tom, I'm here." He's only eleven and probably very frightened. Where are my teenagers? "Carole, do you hear me? Phil, are you here? Please someone answer me, it's Mom!"
More silence! I prayed to God, asking for his help. Looking at the moon I recited the 121st Psalm learned as a teenager. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." The hills appeared as if a line were drawn on them with the earth shaking below; dirt rolled out of the fault line. I pulled branches over my naked body for protection from the cold; my flesh rippled with goose-bumps. I continued to pray. Someone once said, "If man has enough faith he can find his way in the dark with faith as his lamp." I sensed a heavenly presence around me and knew He would see me to safety. "The Lord is thy keeper," the Psalm said.
I remained there praying all night, my heart and the earth keeping an anxious beating rhythm as I endured continuous after-shocks. I called and called my family but heard no answers.
When daylight dawned and I could see around me, I crawled, being unable to stand, down towards the river bed. I repeatedly called. "Pud, I'm here. Kids, it's Mom, where are you?" AT LAST, I heard an answer.
What a wonderful sound! Phil, my sixteen year old, had seen our car and was crawling towards it when he heard the sound of my voice.
"Yes, Phil, it's me Mom," I answered.
Until this time the only thing I'd found relating to family was Phil's belt which I clutched in my hand.
By the sound of our voices we reached each other down in the empty river bed. Seeing him made my heart almost cease beating. His leg looked like a letter S dragging behind him as he pulled himself towards me with blood flowing from cuts behind his ear and the top of his head. Both our bodies were scraped, bloody, and bruised. However, the importance of the moment was we'd found each other. We continued to call family members but no answer came.
Hearing planes overhead, we tried to signal but to no avail. After a seeming eternity we began to hear voices. We called, "Help! We're over here!" Our prayers were answered, rescuers had arrived! A kind lady brought blankets. Wonderful not only for warmth but the embarrassment of being nude.
Anxiety for other members of the family was uppermost in our minds. "Please find the rest of our family. My husband and three more children are here somewhere." Giving their descriptions was important for the search to begin.
Searchers found my husband's body before we left the river. I remember the lady who brought blankets gave me the sorrowful news. Tears engulfed me; my heart throbbed, knowing I'd lost Pud and our happy life together had ended. Giving me a handkerchief, she said, "Here, dear, use this and go ahead and cry." She stayed with me through my first overpowering grief.
Rescuers carried us across the river bed to waiting vehicles where Dr. Ronald Losee administered first aid. Phil's injuries were most serious. They put us in a pick-up, the first vehicle available, and Dr. Losee rushed us to the Madison Valley Hospital in Ennis, Montana with us being unaware of what happened to the rest of the family.
After arrival at the hospital they settled us in rooms following some clean-up and made us comfortable as possible. Dr. Losee rendered heartwarming care and put Phil in traction for both the broken leg and collar bone. Thus began the healing of our wounds.