Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rescued by Angels

Bridges were suddenly thrust many feet higher than the crumpled ribbons of highways--if they were left standing at all--when a devastating earthquake hit South Central Alaska on Good Friday, March 27, 1964. Registering 9.2 on the Richter scale, the largest earthquake ever to hit North America left every city, town, village, and connecting highway within a 300-mile radius in ruins.

Seward Highway, the only road connecting Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, with the port city of Seward, where my family lived, was particularly hard-hit. To reopen the 120-mile road as quickly as possible, the Corps of Engineers erected temporary Bailey bridges along the route. Resembling an erector set, these prefabricated bridges with open girders could be adjusted to fit any site. There were no guard railings, and the roadbeds consisted of wooden or metal plates.

That fall, my mother was invited to fly to Juneau to attend the anniversary celebration of the founding of the church that her parents, the Charles C. Personeuses, had pioneered in 1917. She planned to spend a few days visiting friends there, until she felt a strong impression that she needed to return home earlier than planned. The feeling was so persistent that she thought it must be from God. She caught the first flight to Anchorage. Since no one was expecting her, she planned to take the bus to Seward.

Her flight arrived late, and she missed the bus. So sure was she that she needed to get home as soon as possible, she persuaded her foster daughter, Barbie, to drive her to Seward when she got off from work. It was Friday, so Barbie could spend the weekend at home.

Then it began to snow. Barbie didn't have snow tires yet. Before they could leave Anchorage, she had to have a set mounted on her car. Night comes early that time of year in Alaska, so it was dark by the time they left Anchorage for the three-hour drive. At the wheel, Mother had to proceed cautiously because the snow, mixed with freezing rain, created patches of ice on the roadway.

At Portage, near the head of Turnagain Arm, about halfway to Seward, they stopped to eat. From there, they had to cross a series of Bailey bridges over tide flats cut by estuaries and creeks before heading up into the pass through the Chugach Mountains. Because these temporary bridges sat parallel to the remains of the ruined bridges, they had to make a little jog off the main road to get onto them.

As Mother drove onto the first Bailey bridge, the car suddenly spun out on black ice. Barbie screamed, and Mother cried out, "Oh, Jesus, help us!" When the car came to rest, it was teetering crosswise with the front wheels hanging off the edge.

Staring into the black waters below, they were trying to figure out what to do when headlights flashed toward them. "Oh, no! What if they don't see us?" Mother exclaimed.

The car stopped facing them. Four big men dressed in suits got out. They surrounded the car, picked it up, and set it back on the bridge, headed the right direction.

Amazed, Mother rolled down her window to thank them, but they had totally disappeared--no car, no men! Puzzled, she looked all around. "They're gone!"

"But where could they go?" Barbie asked.

Awe filling her voice, Mother said, "I don't know.They must have been angels sent by God to help us!"

When they finally arrived home late that night, Daddy exclaimed, "What are you doing here?" In the next breath, he added, "But I'm sure glad to see you. Mrs. G [a lady in our church] has been critically injured in an auto accident on Seward Highway. Her teenage son was driving too fast, hit black ice, and crashed into a bridge abutment. He's okay, but her family desperately needs you."

"So that's why the Lord told me to come home." Then Mother told him how they'd been rescued by angels.

Have you ever been aided by angels?

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