Author’s name withheld upon request.
If ever he needed help, it was when the hole caved in on his son who was eight feet down.
I don’t remember arriving home from work before 6:00pm in many years. If I’m home before 7:00, my wife is surprised. But this Monday, February 27, 1995 was somehow different. In retrospect, I know it was a prompting from the Holy Ghost that moved me to head home early, but at the time, going home just seemed like the thing to do. I couldn’t have realized that my family was about to embark on a crisis, and they needed me there. I was home at 4:30, wondering why.
Since I was a boy, I have loved that brief respite from winter February occasionally brings us in Utah. It’s the season when all of the snow melts, the temperatures increase, yet winter is far from over. Meteorologists may have a name for it, but for those who have been cooped up for months with winter, it is just nameless, wonderful, new life. That February we had been experiencing quite a few days of that unseasonably warm weather. The snow was gone, children were riding their bicycles, neighbors were washing their cars and our son Devin, and three of his 12 and 13 year-old friends decided it would be a great time to build forts in the hillside above our home.
The idea had flooded my mind with memories of the forts I used to build with my friends thirty- two years ago. On Saturday, I had encouraged the boys and helped them get started. Each of the four had dug a hole about three feet deep, five feet in diameter and four or five feet from the other holes. They had kept their holes in a straight line. The digging was made easy and comfortable by the warm weather and loose sandy soil. I had helped them get plywood to cover the holes, so they could hide. They had spent most of the day perfecting and camouflaging their forts. By the end of the day, they had been quite proud of their hard work. I inspected the holes and wished I was young.
The forts hadn’t really entered my mind as I had begun another Sunday of church meetings. Our family had done all of the things we normally do on Sundays. We had gone to church, we had studied, we had prayed, but this Sunday Devin and his young friends decided to do one more thing that none of us knew.. They had dug their holes deeper. For hours on Sunday, the boys had kept on digging.
Then it was Monday, February 27.. Devin and two of the boys had decided to race home after school and dig their holes even deeper. When they had reached a depth of seven to eight feet they built a ladder to climb into the holes. “Let’s dig a tunnel and connect all of the holes,” said one. “OK, but there is only enough room for one of us, so let’s take turns.”
It was 5:25, and still surprised to be home so early, I was talking to a colleague on the phone when we heard the scream. It was our daughter Mikah. She had been outside and heard an unusual noise and had seen Devin’s two friends as they began to yell for help. I said “What is it?
She said, “I don’t know but Devin’s in trouble.”
Then, I remembered the forts. I dropped the phone mid conversation and ran outside to find only two young men. The looks on their faces are still vivid in my mind. One was unable to speak or move. The other was as white as the snow that had covered the ground only a few weeks earlier. “Where is Devin? ” I asked, my voice taut with panic. They stuttered and pointed to the trench that had been created by an obvious cave-in of the wet hillside. The fear that came over me as I looked at this 25- foot long and six-foot wide trench, can not be described but only felt by those who have watched a tragedy unfold before their eyes. My son was eight feet down somewhere in that trench, and I didn’t know where. My wife was standing in the doorway. I can still see the look on her face as well. “Call 911!” I shouted.
I grabbed the only shovel in sight. Questions assaulted me. I’ve only got seconds. Where do I begin? Where in this 25 feet is he? I shoveled frantically, moving vast amounts of dirt. “What if I hit him in the head with this shovel? What if I am digging in the wrong place?” I fell to my knees and began to scoop dirt with my bare hands. They started to bleed and I was running out of time.
“How long can someone survive with no air?” I wondered. I figured I had a few precious minutes left. Panic filled my soul. This was our son, and I couldn’t let him die like this. “He has too much potential,” I remember thinking. “He has only begun to live.”
As the squeal of sirens approached, Devin’s two friends were wildly scooping dirt with their hands. The sirens only intensified the feeling of time running out. Where was he? I felt desperate. The trench was too long and too wide for one man and one shovel working on a very short clock.
“OH GOD, HELP ME!” I screamed it as loud as I could. As soon as the words left my mouth, something nearly beyond my comprehension happened. I saw through the dirt, as if it were transparent.. For a moment that was extremely brief, I could see Devin plainly. I was digging in the wrong place. I was below his feet and to the right of his body. He was laying on his left side, his hands clutching his chest, his knee bent. He appeared to be unconscious. This view into a few feet of earth, disappeared as quickly as it had come.
I quickly moved and began shoveling in the right place. Within seconds I had uncovered his nose and then his mouth and then his entire head. He was, in fact, unconscious. I stuck a finger deep into his mouth to clear the dirt he had been trying to breathe. He coughed. I cleared more dirt. I was preparing to give him mouth to mouth with only his head showing from the ground. My lungs burned from exhaustion. Devin started to cough and spit. He opened his eyes and saw me. “Dad I love you, I love you , I love you, I love you,” he blurted over and over.
The paramedics arrived and finished digging him out. One big firemen carried him down the hill to the awaiting truck. He placed Devin on the bed, knelt down, and I saw tears fill his eyes. He looked at us and said, “We go on about four or five of these kinds of cave-ins a year, and it is rare that someone survives. You tell that boy that someone is watching over him.”
Devin is now a priest in Sandy, Utah. He plays football and basketball for his high school. He is tall, handsome, and has many good friends. Yet, he has never forgotten that day in February 1995 when God intervened and allowed him to live to serve a greater purpose. He is preparing for a mission, now, and will join the ranks of the Lord’s growing missionary force in August 2001.
And as for me, I can bear unqualified witness that our Father is a God of miracles.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.