Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
It was a bright December day, she remembered, a great day for a snow shoeing trek near Artist’s Point, eat lunch, then head home. All three college students wound their way slowly around the base of Table Mountain, enjoying a final day together before parting for the long Christmas break.
The avalanche came without warning; a sudden low rumble, then building to a roar, and the ground was moving beneath them, rolling them over and over helplessly in a wave of white that carried them down the slope. It swooshed over top of them, everything awash in white. There was no way to know up from down, and when finally coming to rest, the white became black, still, and suffocating.
Remembering her avalanche survival course, she waved her arms in front of her as hard as she could, creating a small open pocket beneath her face as she found herself bent forward, hunched into a folded crouched position. There was a sense of light coming through the snow above her, but nothing but black below. She tried to force her way up through the snow, to push her way out but it weighted her down like concrete blocks. There was no moving from the small space that contained her.
She realized she was trapped and began to panic. She tried to shout but her voice too was entombed in snow.
So she began to pray. She prayed for her safety, for calmness, for a rescue, she prayed for her two friends, she prayed for her parents. She remembered relaxing as she spoke to God, sensing Him in the darkness with her, knowing He was the only one to know where she was at that moment. He had found her.
Growing colder, she was unable to feel her feet or hands any longer. She was fading; she tried to stay awake by praying harder, but it was no use.
Sometime later she felt herself being pulled into the light, heard excited voices shouting, and then she was being carried on a stretcher. In the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, she began to talk to her rescuers as they warmed her with blankets, and once her skin softened, they put warm intravenous fluids in her veins. By the time she arrived in the emergency room, her face had some color, though her feet were blue, her toes white and completely numb.
It wasn’t until later that she was clear enough to ask about her friends. One was the reason she had been rescued. He had fought his way through his snow covering and thereby freeing himself, had gone for help. With the help of dogs, she had been found. Her third friend was still missing.
As she mentioned to a nurse what a close call she had, being buried under two feet of heavy snow for several minutes, and surviving relatively unscathed, the nurse stopped what she was doing and looked at her oddly.
“Don’t you know? You were buried for almost 24 hours before they found you! It’s amazing you are alive at all and look at you, barely a mark on you, only a little frostbite!”
A miracle whiter than snow.
based on a true story of avalanche survival near Mount Baker by two WWU students. The third student perished.