We were driving along a dirt road in a Land Rover, between no place and nowhere in the jungles of Guatemala. We were on our way to explore a new fishing area when several shabbily-dressed men holding Uzis stepped out of the jungle, stopping the car.
They wanted to check our passports, said our interpreter, the Uzi-holders examining our passports upside down. Spanish or English literacy did not seem to be their strong suit. Somehow we got out of that mess. It could have gone horribly wrong. The hot jungle would have quickly destroyed our bodies had we been shot and dumped, right there between no place and nowhere.
In the lead on a North Carolina hike, a large startled black bear ran down the trail towards me, brushing my leg as he or she, (I did not think to check at the time) went past. I could have easily patted him or her on the shoulder or rump. He or she could have easily mauled me.
We fishermen and our fishing gear were crowded into a small twin-engine Alaskan bush plane when it lost an engine right after lift-off (a critical time). It was losing altitude rapidly as a result of the damaged engine. The pilot barely missed a shack filled with explosives while turning back to slam safely but hard onto the runway. Had we hit the shack, authorities would have had to use dental records to identify us.
A fifteen minute run from fishing grounds in Delaware Bay turned violent with a bad storm, and became a two-hour run while soaking us completely despite full foul weather gear. We got back to the dock to learn that the keel of the aluminum craft had split wide open, the boat sinking at the dock.
A buddy and I, canoeing the Shenandoah River in early March after a day of sleet, overturned our craft, with hypothermia taking over immediately. No one else was around. We survived but I was still cold three days later.
In the woods and on water a lot for fishing, I was almost struck by lightning on three occasions, once ending up with a numb left arm and shoulder for a few days.
During my limited rock climbing days, I came close to falling off of a cliff before setting up protective belaying ropes.
After a four-hour holding pattern over New York during a flight from Quito, Equator, our plane went into steep climb, beverage carts flying and flight attendants falling down. We – and another plane – were obviously on a collision course. Then the pilot missed the runway (too high by 100 feet) on his first landing approach. Fortunately, nothing happened and I am here, writing this.
As with all of us, I was shocked, appalled and sickened with the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the deliberate twin towers destruction and horrible loss of innocent lives.
Some of these events – and many others – could have maimed or killed me, with the deaths of others including family putting me into depression. But never once – never – during any of these events, have I felt compelled to hie myself to a church for some solace from God, Jesus, religion, a Bible, minister, rabbi or priest. Never once did I think about religion or God, during or after these memorable events.
You have to deal with life as it occurs, rely on yourself and your ability to cope with daily events. That’s what life all boils down to anyway.
Finding a crutch in a church, under a spire or in front of an altar only serves as a futile stop gap measure anyway. Live life, enjoy each day and deal with it. Stay skeptical. Stay honest.