Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Actions Speak Louder than Words" (without using the actual phrase). (02/21/08)
TITLE: LIGHTNING STRIKE!
By Kenneth Heath
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Thunder and lightning crashed around us as we inched down the steep mountain path. A huge storm had broken over us, and we were now only half way down. The deluge of water had turned the narrow track into a slippery muddy stream, and as we descended, there were places where it was so steep and narrow that the four of us could hardly move. We were carrying a man on a stretcher and our only illumination in the dark was the flashes of lightning. At times we were lowering him with one hand on the stretcher, the other on the rock face, one slip could have been fatal. The young Zulu muttered incoherently as the morphine took effect. Lizo, as he was called, was the guide of a climbing party that had been struck by lightning. They had all been knocked to the ground, and he received the full force of the strike as it travelled down his rucksack into the ground, leaving him miraculously alive but badly burnt about his legs and in a lot of pain.
Earlier in the afternoon, while lazing around the hotels’ swimming pool, we were told that a hiking party had been struck by lightning and needed help. It was a hot summers day, and I laughed, assuming it to be a prank. What lightning? There had been no storm, so what were they talking about? The hotel owner insisted that it was true and that a young boy from that hiking party had run down the mountain to find assistance. Having just completed two years military service, we were in good shape and agreed to go and help. Wearing only T-shirts, short trousers and running shoes we had taken a stretcher, a blanket and morphine and run up the mountain.
Two hours later, we had come across the hiking party sitting with their critically injured guide. They were on a plateau at about 2100 m and lucky to be alive as the evidence of the strike could be seen around them. We strapped Lizo to the stretcher, administered the morphine and sent the survivors on ahead. The descent was a perilous one for us, as were not skilled in mountain rescue. We were ill equipped, not even having a single rope between us. The massive storm came out of nowhere and raged about us. We could feel the electricity in the air and expected to be struck by lightning at any moment. Carrying the stretcher at Lizo’s head, I tried to comfort him. He did not understand English but my words did have a calming affect on him.
Caught in the eye if the storm, daylight soon gave way to night and our progress become painfully slow. Miraculously, we reached the valley floor unscathed and proceeded towards the hotel. Little streams had become raging torrents, and we had to use a rope thrown to us by the foresters, to cross the final river to them before they carefully placed him in their four-wheel drive vehicle and took him to a hospital.
The rescue had lasted seven hours, and we were exhausted, cold and soaked to the bone. The hotel had run hot baths for us and sent meals to our rooms. Celebrations were in order at the hotel bar for the rescuers, but I was too tired, so I curled up in bed and drifted into an exhausted sleep, just happy to have helped.
Four years later, I took my beautiful wife and baby son on a weeks’ holiday to the same hotel. Arriving late in the afternoon, we unpacked and headed for the dining room to have supper. On our entrance it became apparent that we were the cause of much excitement among the Zulu staff. The headwaiter came over and escorted us to his “special table”. He then strode off to the kitchen, returning with Lizo who had recovered from his injuries and was now waiting on tables. The smile and hand shake said it all. We still could not communicate verbally, but our stay was amazing as Lizo and his friends waited on us hand and foot. Nothing was too much effort for them, and I do believe that even our delicious meals were “larger than normal” as they clearly showed their gratitude for our help all those years ago. When a person is in trouble, passing by on the other side is never an option; you need to stretch out your hand like Jesus and help.
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