Just before the new year, a 30-year-old woman, Kati Kim, received high public praise for the way in which she cared for her children while lost in the snowy Oregon woods for nine days. The story got me thinking: Would I be able to survive such an extreme challenge? Would I come out a survivor, and also be able to save my children?
My untested answers: Yes, yes and yes.
I think most women I know would come out on top from a tough situation like that. We may, generally speaking, be the weaker sex physically, but I believe we have at least as much inner fortitude as our male counterparts.
Not to say that the man in this story failed. In fact, this recent incident is a heartwrenching tragedy, for even though Kati and her daughters were rescued, her husband, James, 35, was found two days later, dead from exposure and hypothermia.
The Kims — James, Kati, and daughters Penelope, 4 and Sabine, 7 months at the time — had embarked on a road trip from their home in San Francisco to visit family in Seattle over American Thanksgiving. After the late-November holiday, they planned their uneventful return via a stop over at a lodge in Gold Beach, Ore. Along the way, they missed a turnoff to the main highway during a late-night coastal storm. A few wrong decisions later (only in hindsight), and they found themselves snowed into their car with only limited provisions, and off the beaten path where other cars could have passed them by and offered assistance.
Weather and misfortune banded together, working against the Kims for a full week, at which point, without anymore means of keeping warm, James decided to leave his family in search of help. A decision only a desperate man, and a hero, would have made. A decision that unfortunately cost him his life.
When he didn’t immediately return, Kati thought of looking for him, but knew she was too weak to make the unchartered trek with her two small daughters in tow.
That decision saved her life and the lives of her children. Two days later, a privately chartered helicopter spotted Kati and the girls, and flew them off to safety, where hospital officials were amazed at how healthy the girls were after spending nine days out in the wilderness in harsh winter weather.
Two days later, James was discovered less than a mile from where his wife and children had been rescued.
We never know what lies around the corner — every day is a new one and we go about our lives as normally as possible. But the Kims’ story has reminded me that we need to be prepared. We should always have bottled water, flashlights with fresh batteries, and non-perishable snacks stashed both at home and in our cars, for an emergency situation.
We can’t predict the unknown, but we can try to be fit, determined and positive.