Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We are Hildale

Two large vans loaded with mothers, aunts and little children went on a drive. . .and never came home.


Monday evening September 14, in Hildale, Utah some adults rounded up the little ones to watch the flooding in their neighborhood. The mothers corralled the kids in two vans during an exceptionally heavy thunderstorm. They cautioned the children to stay away from the rushing water and asked them to remain inside the vehicles to watch the weather. They parked at a safe distance, parents standing in the rain, when in an instant, the water rushed from behind them, washing away the road. To the horror of onlookers, their vehicles were swept by the forces of water, down slopes and rocks. Their vans came to rest, twisted in the aftermath.

It could have been you. It could have been me. It could have been my children and grandchildren. Most people who have lived in the west for a fair amount of time know not to hike in canyons and washes (also known as arroyos) during rainstorms. They know to stay out of the swimming holes even if a storm is ten or fifteen miles away. The rain gathers from high plateaus and rushes down the sides of walls, converges to the lowest and narrowest points creating a swift running river where only minutes before sand and lizards baked in the sun.


Decades ago after some storms, my children and I stayed a healthy and safe distance watching water run down dirt roads in Southern Utah. Still, we were in a neighborhood, away from canyons. Thankfully the water from the storms never gained so much momentum to sweep us away.


Sadly, the focus in the media and amongst most people is the fact that the victims were members of the FLDS community, a renegade offshoot of the mainstream Christian “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (LDS). Many people poke fun at the FLDS manner of dress and isolation, joking about how many Polygamists it takes to fill a van before it stops floating. I wonder if people would say the same if this was a van of people from New York visiting from out of state. What if this had been a bus load of European tourists?


In fact, that same evening, hikers from California were swept away while traversing through Keyhole Canyon in nearby Zion National Park. As the crow flies, Zion is only fifteen miles away from little Hildale. Part way into the hike, the rain began. Within less than fifteen minutes, the Virgin River rose from fifty five cubic feet per second to over 2500 cubic feet. The hikers were hit with a wall of water which later slammed Hildale like a tidal wave. I don’t hear jokes about the California hikers.

At press time the total number of dead in both instances is twenty. As of posting this blog entry the search continues for little Tyson Black whose deceased relatives and the mangled van he was riding in were found a half mile away. Some bodies and debris were discovered as far as six miles away.


The mayor of the little polygamist community called this an act of God. I will agree that Heavenly Father created weather, but each of us chooses what course we take in life. The mothers chose to watch the flash floods at what they judged to be a safe distance, but the waters changed course and took them off guard. God did not do this. These communities are already struggling with their faith. They do not need to be angry at their creator.


My heart and prayers are with Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. I will stand with you.


Je Suis Hildale


(Photos #1 and #2 -- Vehicles and families minutes before the wall of water hit them, via John Barlow and Channel 13 FOX News, Utah)
(Photo #3 credit Saint George News.)

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1 comment:

  1. The media focused on the tragedies reported above. Days later in tiny articles that I almost didn't see, were the stories of two men also swept away in separate incidents on September fourteen. One was the son of a co-worker from a few years ago. I am afraid that some more missing people may eventually be found, that they too may be victims of the deluge. (I am praying for your comfort. Julie, I hope you will find peace.)

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