We scrambled, there on the beach, to collect our things. Grandparents, eager to calm a disappointed and angry four-year old, were moved to pick up as many large, heavy “special rocks” as they could from the stream before heading up the stairs. Fear rising in our parental hearts, we quickly stuffed blankets and towels in tote bags, and assigned children to adults. “Put your shoes on!” we shouted to the kids, “We need to get back up to the house before it rains!”
As we began our ascent up the wooden stairs, the wind we had so blithely ignored started to pick up with a vengeance. After two steps, Lyle cried, “Carry me, Mommy, I’m too tired for the stairs.” Handing Matt my tote bag – with him already carrying the extremely heavy food and drink bag – I hoisted Lyle into my arms and began to climb. There were other adults ahead of me, Baxter visibly among them. Matt was behind me.
Within mere seconds of our climb, the wind began its outrageous frenzy: leaves swirled and rocks rolled down the hill, clipping at our ankles. Pieces of tree bark flew at us, prompting my sister-in-law to cry out that it had started hailing. I thought she was probably right, and yet it hadn’t. Logical thought processes had been, literally, thrown to the wind.
But, oh, the sound. That fearful sound was the worst, we all later agreed. Although the howling, angry 60-mile per hour wind was hitting us straight on, we all felt like this had to be something akin to a tornado. And yet I continued to dash up the stairs as fast as I could, fueled by adrenaline alone; avoiding the “sink hole” and trying to choose the least muddy places to step, lest I trip and fall with Lyle in my tired arms. It no longer mattered that there were no handrails in some spots because to slow down enough to hold one would have meant we had the luxury of time. And we most assuredly did not.
When large tree limbs began to fall, one of them grazing Lyle’s head, I started to feel the terror in my throat. My sister-in-law, moving quickly up the stairs next to us, looked visibly shaken. “We’re going to be okay,” I tried to say with certainty, but honestly, I didn’t believe it. I turned back to Matt and called out that I needed him to take a turn with Lyle. “Can you see Baxter?” he hollered, barely audible in the wind. “No, but he’s up ahead with…” and here I paused to scan the crowd behind me to figure out who was up ahead with my older son. Everyone was accounted for. I looked up the wooded path ahead of us. Baxter was not in sight. “He’s by himself!” I shouted, now starting to seriously panic.
I handed over Lyle and grabbed the bags from Matt, lunging up the stairs again with two huge tote bags; together, they were actually heavier than Lyle. At one point in the climb, Matt yelled to me that I should just leave them on the path, and if I hadn’t known that we had some valuables in one bag or the other, I would have. Despite being almost completely out of breath, I called out Baxter’s name. I could barely hear my own voice in the cacophony. Frightening thoughts raced through my head: Has he run off in the wrong direction? Where would he go if he got to the top? Is he hurt? Did one of the tree limbs hit him up ahead?
I have never been so afraid in my life.
[Stay tuned for Part Three…]