That Time We Saved a Life
Kodiak Island, July 1971. My brother John and I were exploring the cliffs at Ft. Abercrombie State Park when we were drawn to a disturbance at the edge of one of the cliff faces at Miller Point. Directly below the cliffs was the North Pacific Ocean.
It seems a young boy of about 10 or 12 years old had gotten too close to the edge. It had crumbled under his weight, and he had fallen about 80 feet to the ground below. He appeared to be unconscious as he lay about 10 feet from the water’s edge. The spot is marked with the red X above.
And the tide was coming in. Rapidly.
Thinking quickly, John ran to my VW bug and drove it as close to the edge as he dared. I got out the climbing gear I usually carried and, using the car bumper as an anchor, rappelled down to where the boy lay. He was alive and had just regained consciousness. I strapped him into my climbing harness and John carefully pulled him up to safety, where two Coast Guardsmen put them in their car and drive him to the hospital.
Meanwhile, the tide had come in, forcing me to move about 50 feet to safety. I was cut off from any way to get back up…and the tide was still rising. I had to abandon this spot.
I managed to swim around the headland (marked X’) and found a safe place. John, who had been watching me, had moved the car and then dropped the rope and climbing harness to me. A quick 5-minute climb and I was back on the top, cold, wet and exhausted. We later heard that the tides there were usually so rough at that location that a car that drove off the cliff was never recovered.
It was a 10-minute drive back home, where a hot shower and a pot of tea revived me.
The next day the local paper carried the story of our rescue under the headline, “Coast Guard Heroes in Daring Rescue.” There was no mention of John and me.
So, we did what any true red-blooded Americans would do: we laughed it off, smoked a joint, and went out for a pizza. A large one, with all the toppings. And a pitcher of beer.
We deserved it: after all, we were heroes.