Kelly and Rick were inseparable growing up. Lou Ann and Logan, Kelly's mom and step dad were best friends with Norma and Dick, Rick's parents. The men had served in the military together and the girls shared the same head-strong determination to raise their families with high morals, strict disciple, and strong religious foundations. Many times Kelly and Rick found themselves being spanked at one house after doing their infamous childhood pranks, only to go to the other's home and receiving another paddling. Both sets of parents loved all the kids as their own.
Before Rick had proposed to me, he informed me that I had to meet Kelly and Karen. Later, I would find out that the dinner we had with them was my interview. Rick had shared with Kelly that he was going to ask me to marry him and he had wanted their "okay". I was just glad I had been on my best behavior that evening.
I awoke to the same sounds and stories I had fallen asleep to the previous night. The rescuers had gone out around six a.m. and they were planning a news conference to give information later in the afternoon.
Rick called early on Tuesday, Dec 12th, to tell me he was on his way to the Portland airport to pick up Lou Ann, Kelly's mom. He was dreading the long ride to the B&B in Hood River where he would be reuniting her with her grandchildren and daughter-in-law. (Logan was ill at the time and Rick's mom had been in contact with Lou Ann just weeks before the accident to share war stories of their ill husbands.) What would he tell her? How would he comfort this mother that was like his own when he himself felt so helpless?
I plugged on, trying to keep some resemblance of normalcy back at home. I was manning the phone, starting the email for encouragement to the families, and attempting to remain upbeat and calm to all the family and friends that were calling to check on things. Rick had limited phone privileges due to the overwhelming amount of media that flocked to Mt. Hood and their B&B. He would call and whisper the daily events so that nothing could be written and taken out of context. His main concern was to help in whatever capacity was needed to find Kelly and to keep Karen and the kids safe from the media.
I was not allowed to share intimate details about what the family knew to our family and friends and he told me under no circumstances was I to talk to anyone in the media. The story was nationwide and people were coming out of the woodwork to get any and all information on these men who were lost in a storm while climbing Mt Hood.
Even though I was never alone, I didn't have anyone to talk to or tell me it was going to be okay. I was so lonely and felt so guilty about thinking of myself during this horrific time. My kids were phenomenal and after the days grew into one another, they took over a lot of the hands-on details. They left me alone, knowing that if I was in my bedroom with the door shut, I was not to be disturbed. I have never had that happen before in 22 years of mothering. It was oddly uncomfortable.
Back at Hood River, the families had had their first news conference and I watched on CNN as Rick tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible. I could see him hiding in the backgound behind the kids, there to support the family that he loved so dearly, and I would cry out of relief knowing he was safely still on the ground. I could see the pain on everyone's faces as the search was again called off due to high winds. They had been on the mountain 4 days past the time they were to meet Brian's friend. I could hear the faint sound of despair in Frank's voice as he spoke for his little brother's family. They all remained optimistic, as did the rest of the world.
When Rick found himself alone with no media around the corner or at the table next to him, he would call me. Sometimes that meant at 3 am. I would answer with a hopeful, "Any news?" to which I would receive a whispered, "Not yet". Then he would quietly tell me of the days events and I could hear the exhaustion in his voice.
Rick is a take charge kind of guy. He has had his own business for over 25 years and been the boss in his family, even making decisions for his parents. If something needs to get done, Rick is the man to contact. During this time, he had designated himself "Food Guy" and would awaken before anyone else to go out and get doughnuts and coffee for the rescuers and family. This was something he could control and it gave him some hint of satisfaction knowing he was needed. But this overall helplessness was almost more than he could handle. No amount money or manpower could change the weather.
"It's so incredibly weird here at this Bed and Breakfast."
"What do you mean? Because of the media?"
"No. Kelly and the guys stayed here the night before they climbed."
"I talked to the owner for about two hours tonight. She is very kind. She told me something but you can't share this with anyone."
"Okay, " I whispered back, almost not wanting to hear what she told him.
"She put me in the room that Kelly had."
I heard myself gasp, not really knowing the full impact of this information.
"She said she had planned on not even renting it out, but when she saw me, something made her give me the room. I sleep where he slept. The room is so warm. Jill, it's so cold here. He is somewhere up there in sub-zero weather. And no one can get to him."
We softly cried and then I begged him again, "Rick, please don't go up there."
"They won't let anyone up. I tried to find another route but with the snow and wind, it is impossible."
I breathed a sigh of relief. But an incredible amount of sadness flooded me.
I suddenly felt the all the weight of reality hit me in full force.
Kelly and the guys were still up there.
I could not imagine what Karen was going through.
It was freezing cold outside where 3 men were waiting to be rescued.
We were less than 3 hours away from the beginning of another rescue attempt.
Would they find Kelly and Brian and Nikko today?
And it was my and Rick's third anniversary.
(to be continued...)