Friday I took all OPA 8th graders who did a science fair project to the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point. This is my fourth time taking students to the museum and, in their end of year reviews, it consistently ranks as one of their favorite field trips. We spend the day adventuring--riding the train to and from the museum and exploring with abandon inside the museum. Good times.
Friday dawned cold and snowy, so cold and snowy, in fact, that one could not even see the dawn….or the sun...or the mountains. A student texted me “Considering the weather, are we still going on the field trip?” “Yes,” I responded. “Snow does not bother trains.”
We boarded the train in snowy conditions in Ogden and exited the train in snowy conditions in Lehi. Plans called for us to walk the half mile from the train station to the museum. Though we were in near blizzard conditions--visibility about 300 yards, snow flurries, and temperatures in the low 20’s with a wind chill factor that made it seem significantly colders--I was not worried. It is difficult to kill an 8th grader; walking a half mile in these conditions would be good for them.
I wasn’t worried until I got off the train, directed my group to walk north, and did not recognize anything. Granted, visibility was restricted but I did not recognize anything. Nothing. The kids ran animatedly ahead, pleased to be free from school’s normal restrictions. My concern grew as the distance between us and the train station we were leaving behind grew. I did not recognize a thing. I had done this same trip multiple times. Where did I grow wrong?
Aware of my ability to mix things up, I called the museum. “Are we supposed to get off the train at the Lehi stop?” I asked. Yes. Just follow Garden Street north, I was told, and you will reach us. Okay. We were on Garden Street and were heading north. We had to get there soon.
But we didn’t…. We did not get there and looking ahead I could not see any sign that we were going to get there. We were in a subdivision where no subdivision should exist. I called the museum again. “We are in the middle of a subdivision,” I told them. “I don’t know where you are,” they responded. “I don’t either,” I said.
I found street signs on a cross street and gave them my coordinates. “You are a long way away,” they said. “Keep going north and the street you are on will turn into Garden Street and the museum is on Garden Street.”
I told Amamda, a parent who was with me and who had found our location and destination on her smartphone,
“We just have to keep heading north and we will get there.”
“We are going south,” she said.
South? SOUTH???? NO!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unable to see the mountains because of the near-whiteout I had become disoriented and had led the group (80 students and 10 parents) a half mile in the wrong direction...which meant we had to go back a half mile and then we would still have a half mile to go to the museum...and the storm was worsening.
We turned around and began walking back. When we were walking the wrong direction the wind was to our backs so the blowing snow was not so bad. When we retraced our steps we were heading into the wind. Snow pellets stung our faces. Jovial lightheartedness was replaced by a dogged endurance. Talking and laughing ceased. It was cold. COLD.
My phone rang. “This is Katherine. I have the museum van. It only holds 12 passengers but I am coming to get you.”
My mind whirled, figuring out how to get transport nearly 100 people in a 12 passenger van….. We’d congregate in the tunnel under the train stop (a concrete tube, unheated but sheltered). Women and children first. I would send the least physically fit female chaperone with the coldest, frailest girls in the first van load, and then, triage fashion, rank those who remained in ride order. I would challenge all who remained to “man up” and walk with me the half mile to the museum. Assuming that some would accept my challenge, I would walk with as many as would to the museum, leaving Mr. Zundell (the OPA employee accompanying me) supervise those remaining at the station. It was not an ideal situation but at least it offered some hope.
Eventually we made it back to the train station, very cold and wet but not whining. At least not to me.
Just after everyone went into the tunnel under the train stop Katherine showed up in the van and, just after Katherine showed up in the van, two big yellow school busses pulled up. TWO BIG YELLOW SCHOOL BUSSES!
The museum hosts kids from multiple schools in a day. A school from Alpine School District was visiting the museum that day as well. Katherine had approached the drivers of the busses that transported those students, explained our plight, and asked if they would come to our rescue. And they did.
It was a gracious gift from God and a testament to the goodness of people. I was honestly worried. The kids were cold. COLD. And wet. Being junior high kids, they were not adequately dressed. Most were wearing only hoodies and canvas shoes. One girl was in a skirt and a couple boys were in shorts. My fingers and toes were cold and both were encased in leather. I could only imagine how their unprotected digits felt. I knew we could walk to the museum if we had too but I knew it would be a miserable, MISERABLE experience and I felt so, so, SO bad. Awful. Truly awful.
The busses showed up like gifts from God. I know what angels looks like. One of my angels is a Latino with a warm smile and he is driving a big yellow bus. Another is a sandy-haired woman who also drives a big yellow bus. And a third has short, curly brown hair and shows up in a Museum of Natural Curiosity van.
I understand the principle of grace a little better now. I was given a free and unmerited gift. I messed up. TOTALLY MESSED UP. And, in so doing, caused almost 100 innocent people to suffer. And there was nothing I could do, NOTHING, to remedy the situation.I felt horrible--HORRIBLE--but I could not make it right.
Enter grace. I did nothing to merit our rescue. I did not pay any money. None of those people owed me favors; they did not even know me!. But, thanks to their goodness, mercy and compassion, a service was provided for me (and those I had hurt) that I could not do for myself. Free. Unmerited.
Thank you Katherine, Felix, and Janae for being graceful instruments in God’s hands
NOTE: All student photos are published with consent.