I had an experience this weekend that I don’t think I’ll soon forget. I woke up early Saturday (5am) morning and went about my routine of trying to sleep in. I ended up giving up around 7am. I went upstairs and figured I’d check to see what was going on in the world on my desktop since I still haven’t replaced my Windows Phone 7 (another story.)
I logged into the usual sites, Google+, Facebook, Yammer, and Twitter. I skim through all of them and then I noticed it. A buddy had posted a plea for help, that his dad was missing, and that he needed help searching for him at 7:30am. I looked at the clock, it was 7:15am. I sent a quick comment saying I was on my way. I didn’t even shower. I grabbed my gear, cargo jeans, carhart jacket, warm socks, ball cap, and bolted from the house after getting the OK from the wife.
I made it to the search operation meeting area, and pulled in behind a parked police cruiser. I walked over to join the last search party heading into the woods and waited while the chief explained where we were going into the woods in coordination with the other groups that were searching. It’s at this point Trent, the son of the missing hunter, walks over to join the group along with his wife. We all entered the woods together and split up into two groups. I went with Trent, his wife, and an EMT off into a sector close to where his father may have been hunting.
We covered a lot of ground, most of it uphill, and visibility was very poor heading up to the top of the hill. I got filled in that his father most likely was wearing cameo, no reflective material as he was bow hunting, and that we should look for blood or any tracks. His cell phone was on and that they knew that he was within two miles so he was most definitely somewhere in the 60+ acre of woods. By this point I was told that any blood would be black and hard to see but to stay vigilant.
I learned a few things during the search that still bother me. Mainly that the EMT and police rely on hard-copy printed aerial maps while Trent was using Google maps to pinpoint our position far better. The EMT we were with had a basic phone and was surprised of the availability of such technological capabilities. While I don’t doubt the capability of their on-foot searching experience I can’t imagine how much more effective they’d be with properly applied technology.
We kept heading towards clearings that showed signs of recent deer activity as the most likely locations where his father would have been staking out for a good shot. We’d heard some radio chatter that a single arrow was found with a few climbing spikes not far from where we were located. We were advised that it was highly likely we were in the area that he’d be found. I don’t really know how much area we covered after that announcement, but we were heading into another thicket when the EMT shouted ‘They found him!’ We all rushed back to the EMT (we were spread out 20+ feet canvasing the area barely able to see each other).
It was silent for a moment waiting for any additional information. Very silent. We heard the news he was deceased. I looked at the EMT, back at Trent, and then his wife started crying. Trent and his wife embraced. I still can’t describe the look on his face. Pain hidden behind a solemn expression. His eyes were tearing slightly but he held his composure. The EMT and I made eye contact and shared the same thought. He placed his hand out on Trent’s shoulder, who was still consoling his wife, and squeezed. I did the same to the other shoulder.
We were close to where they found him. The other side of the clearing where we’d gone right instead of left. It was a while later when we exited the woods to join with the returning search parties. I splintered off to head to the back where I met with another buddy who I’d not seen in quite some time. Neither one of us had words that adequately described what we were thinking or the situation. I felt my heart jumping into my throat at the pain this must have caused the family. I waited around a while so I could get the chance to again express how truly sorry I was for his loss. I left shortly after. On the way home I called my dad and told him how much I love him.