Oh What a Night
The Thanksgiving Story
The Helicopter Story
It Could ONLY happen to US!
A Thanksgiving To Remember.....
If you haven't heard the story yet....here goes.....
Yesterday as I was writing my blog, Jon left to go mountain biking. He goes almost every day, sometimes he does about 20 miles, sometimes less. Yesterday he was not going to do as much. He has been riding for years. He rides at a couple of different places. They are all under the water management area, so they aren't parks with paved trails nor are they maintained like a state park. Some of the roads are graded and more well used and some are more trails. Hunting is allowed at different times in the parks. There are a lot of wild animals in there too. He has some trails memorized and most of the trails are marked to some degree.
I didn't really pay attention to when he left. I did know he was still gone when the nurses' changed shifts but he is on vacation, didn't have to get up early and not afraid of the woods at night so I didn't worry. Thankfully he had on his head light that I just bought all of them! We had recorded a bunch of "Everyone Loves Raymond" while we were gone so Steve and I started watching them and laughing. Time slipped away and around 10 pm I started thinking that he should have been home by then.....but I didn't want to make a big deal as he is quite adventurous and knows the particular area that he went to (luckily he told me where he was going!!!!!) really good. In my mind, I thought I'd give him till 11pm.....well at 11pm, Steve and I went to the little parking area to see if his van was there....it was, with his cell phone in it. Our night nurse was with all the children, she was very concerned too and helped us out. The parking area is only a couple of miles from our house. So at that point I called the sheriff's office and then sent out a couple of deputies. They assessed the situation and called in the air rescue as well as the ATV rescue team. They were even going to call the canine unit but thought since he was on a bike, the dogs would have more trouble locating him.
The helicopter is fitted with heat imaging so it had a better chance of finding him. BTW, last night the temps were down into the 30's, the coldest night of the year thus far! Once the helicopter got up, I took Steve home, since he was dressed in shorts and I was DYING to go to the bathroom. I had just drank two bottles of water before I left to go out there and in the cold....let's just say I was miserable!
It took about an hour to get the chopper up in the air. I thought once it was up, it would just take a few minutes to find him so I figured by the time I got back they would have found him but that was not the case.
For the most part I was very calm, I know the area, and knew that he had gotten turned around a few times before but always could get himself out. As time went on, I did start worrying more! when I really narrowed the time down and realized he had left about 4:30 pm, then I started to worry. At first I told the cops he had left about 6:30 pm. The only thing I had to gage it by was he was gone at shift change. But as I remembered, he had left right after we came back from eating out. So then I realized that was just a little bit after 4pm. YIKES....by this time it's after 1AM!
I called my brother in law and he put a prayer request on FB and one of my BFF's called and said she and her husband were coming to wait with me. So by the time I got back from my house they were there and my bro in law came just a few minutes later.
I can't say I didn't think the worst a few times.....but I tried to focus on the fact that the most logical thing was that he got lost. My bro in law asked me if I'd taken a few (or a lot) of my "happy" pills but I really hadn't. I just stayed calm, figured there was time later to freak if I needed to do so!
So around 1:45 am they spotted a light (yes it was the light I bought him!) and he was waving it around! At first we all didn't know much except that he or someone had been spotted. The helicopter was able to find a spot to land near him and radioed to us when they had him on board. They didn't ask for an ambulance so we figured he was ok. WHEW!
The Preserve is located across from the airport so we met them over there. Thankfully he was fine!
So his story was he was riding on some of the trails he knows, they are marked with numbers, he thought he'd try a new trail that wasn't as clearly marked, but he knew he could backtrack if needed. Well.......it didn't' quite work that way! He got turned around but still thought he'd come across a trail that he knew but never did. He was about FOUR miles from the entrance when he was found. It's about an 80 square mile area. so he wasn't too far from the front area but far enough back in to not be able to get out!
Jon also never panicked, he knew I'd call the sheriff's office eventually. He was dressed warmly and had his light with him. He did say there were a few times where he'd feel some fear creep in but he actually just started singing on the top of his lungs LOL! He wasn't really afraid of animals, as that area mostly has deer and hogs, maybe a few bobcats. Of course there are plenty of snakes and gators in there but with it being so cold, they aren't aggressive and were probably curled up in dens (snakes) or somewhat hibernating (gators-there is a term for what gators do in the winter time but I forget what it is called, don't think it is hibernating...) Once he saw the helicopter with the big light, he knew it was there for him. He kept flipping his light so that he could be seen and once they were over his area, they saw him.
I told him he now has even more in common with his inmates, he got tracked down by the sheriff's department LOL!!!!!
The first thing the helicopter officer said was "hey you need a ride?" as he smiled at Jon:) The Pasco Sheriff Officers were excellent with us. They were so professional and kind. Once we all knew he was ok, there was plenty of good natured kidding that took off all the tension. We think highly of our sheriff's office and now that we have needed them and see how professional they are in a serious situation we REALLY appreciate them!! They were happy that this had a good outcome and that no one was hurt! What was nice is I could tell how glad they were that everything was ok:) A bunch of good guys!!!
We were home by 2:45am. My brother in law spent the night and we all stayed up talking for awhile...and laughing. What else can you do??
One REALLY funny thing that happened was when the officers searched Jon's van, they came across a card. So they asked me if I knew a "Aaron" and I said yes, he is one of our nurses. They didn't ask anymore questions along those lines and I though nothing of us, just thought Jon had one of his business cards....that wasn't the kind of card they found. They found a thank you card to Selah/us for his birthday cake and present we had given him...it was a Winnie the Pooh card as if it was being sent to Selah....talking about DYING laughing when we realized what ALL of that might have looked like to a cop!!! OMG! We told him the story when he came in this morning and we were all wiping tears!!!
Another STRANGE thing, right before the first cop got there, there was a very strange light in the southern sky that turned the night sky BLUE as day and then there was a white flash on the bottom of the horizon! The FUNNY thing is Jon saw it too and when I was describing it, he said he saw it clearer since he was in a field type area at that point and had a good view, he didn't see the white flash on the bottom of the horizon like I did but it turned the night into day for a second. I'm wondering if it was a meteorite. Jon thought it was a falling star as he seemed to see a actually thing falling, where all I saw was the bright light all over. I've seen a "falling star" before and it did not light up the whole sky at all! If anyone knows anything about this, let me know. I've not watched the news today at all and I will look it up to see if there was anything said about something like that. Our nurse had told us he heard on the news that a boy in Lakeland- not too far from us- was hit in the head by a piece of meteorite just a few days ago.
Another really "hard" thing I had to answer was if Jon was suicidal. I told the cops NO but that we have gone through a lot in the past few years. They asked if we had weapons and if any were missing. I was able to determine that none were missing. They asked if we'd had a fight. I told them with 5 kids and being so busy just coming home from a vacation that I didn't think we'd had a fight, at least not one I could remember LOL!!!
So we are thankful that Jon is ok and we are grateful for the help we received from the Pasco Co Sheriff's Department!!
So since Jon didn't get us a turkey last night....... we ate at Denny's for Thanksgiving!
Before anyone feels too sorry for us....
Most Thanksgiving and Christmas I'd been cooking full meals for our family and some close friends. I used the church's fellowship hall since it is large and has a beautiful big kitchen. But since the Hall hasn't been used since last year, it was dusty and filled with our old church chairs, we got new ones this year. We are having a big work day on Saturday and cleaning all of that, I just haven't had time to do it. So I really didn't want to cook there this year. Also with us just coming back from vacation, I wasn't really up to cooking a big meal so everyone made other plans, some family went out of state, some made plans with in laws, some of our close friends also went out of town....it just was a funky year for us.
BUT we were all together and everyone was OK.....that made it Thanksgiving for us:)
We'd planned on getting up early and going to the Golden Corral by like 10:30am to eat there BUT with everything that happened, there was no getting up early this morning at the Clanton's LOL! We got up late, visited with my bro in law who had to be somewhere else by the afternoon so .....we thought we'd go around 3 or 4 pm....yeah we went and the line was AROUND the building....so then we went to the next closest bigger town and most of everything was closed there too. Their Golden Corral was just as bad....then we saw Denny's and joined the other LOSERS! LOL We got seated quick and didn't have to wait too long, we all had breakfast food and we took back a piece of Pecan pie for our nurse!