In late 1978 my wife and I went to go camping beside a river with my wife’s parents and some others in a camping park. We had with us our two young daughter’s, both of whom were only babies. At the time my wife was also six months pregnant.
We had just arrived at the site in the early evening and immediately set up camp while there was still some daylight. We are experienced campers and had a set routine for how we set up the tent and the campsite. Our tent had two rooms and normally we placed our daughters in the rear room so we could come and go without disturbing them too much.
I began to set up the tent in a spot I thought looked reasonable, but as I began my father in law told us to move the tent to another spot as the park ranger had earlier that day mowed the grass for us. The mowed spot was under a large red river gum (eucalypt) tree and so I slid the tent across into the mown area. The tree had a large trunk which forked about eight feet above the ground, and appeared to be healthy as far as we could tell. That is there were plenty of green foliage and no dead limbs.
As we were setting up for some “strange reason” we did everything different on this day. Instead of putting the children in the rear room we put them up front. My wife put down our mattress and bedding on one side of the tent, but I wasn’t happy with it the way she laid it out. So I pulled the mattress around 180 degrees and moved it to the other side of the tent. And there were several other things that we did which were different to the norm for us.
We finished at about 9:30pm and noted with some puzzlement the fact we had set up the tent “all wrong”, but as light of the day was long gone I said I’d fix it the next day. After putting the children to bed we likewise turned in for the night an hour or so later. It was a hot, still night with no breeze.
Just before midnight that first night, the tree above us fell on to our tent, or rather one of the two forks of the tree sheared off and fell on to us. Both my wife and I heard it coming as the leaves hit the tent first and we heard the massive cracking noise as the fork separated from the trunk. It landed on us as we were in bed.
The tree crushed me across the upper legs and groin area and pinned my wife, breaking her pelvis in two places and breaking her leg at the shin. Although I had no breaks I was bleeding internally and the whole area where I had been hit just went numb. I managed to pull myself out from under the tree and then with one arm I lifted the section on my wife and pulled her out from under it too after which I collapsed and could not move any more due to my injuries. We then began yelling and calling for help which took some time as people around us thought we were just arguing. Eventually though my in-laws came out and saw what had happened and my father in law went for help while my wifes mother stayed with us.
My wife then asked about the two children as we had not heard any sound from them and could see that they way the tre had fallen they would have been in the direct path. My mother in law just assured us they were OK but unbeknownst to us she had not checked them, thinking they were dead as they had not made a sound, and she didn’t want to see until the ambulance arrived. At this stage I had been bleeding for a while and I think I was drifting in and out of consciousness as I don’t recall much of what happened.
The ambulance arrived in what seemed quick time, but I was told later it was at least an hour as they had to come in from the next major country town which was a fair distance away. At this point my mother in law went across to our two girls, who were still asleep and she when woke them up they just said, “Hello Nanna,” not realising what had happened. We were bundled into the ambulance and taken to the hospital. That night the medical team thought I was going to die from the blood loss as my blood pressure had dropped critically low. In fact I was told later that they began taking information for a death certificate from my wife. In total we spent six to seven weeks in hospital recuperating from our injuries.
Now these are the reasons why I praise the Lord and thank him for his protection.
If we had put the tent up as we normally did with our daughters in back, they would have been crushed and killed. If we had left the bed the way my wife started to set it up we would have been crushed across the head and chest and killed. After the tree fell on us and pinned my wife to the ground, I lifted it up with one arm and pulled her out. Now this tree was forty-two inches in diameter at the base where it fell and when the limb was later cut up for removal it was cut into six foot lengths which three men could not move. Am I that much stronger than three men remembering that I was bleeding internally as well? No way! I believe the Lord either gave me the strength or sent his angels to lift the tree so I could pull out my wife.
Our two daughters were placed in such a way that as the limb fell, it was bowed and they were underneath the bow in the branch and were kept safe. In fact they slept right through the whole event and didn’t know what had happened until after the ambulance arrived and they were woken up.
And there is still more. My wife was six months pregnant at the time and after the accident each time she visited the obstetrician they would do all the routine checks including listening for the heartbeat of the child. At every visit they wrote in the records that they could not find a foetal heartbeat. The doctors did not tell my wife and when the time came for her to deliver the child, which was about eight weeks or more premature, the doctor was expecting a still born child. My wife had a normal delivery which was quite incredible considering that she still had the broken leg and pelvis, and her leg was in a full plaster cast.
When our son was born he was black from bruising, but when he let out that first cry the doctor burst into tears saying it was a miracle and that he was the most beautiful baby he had seen.
Now there are many reasons why I could be angry or cynical about this whole incident. I could ask why this was allowed to happen to us in the first place. But that would take away from the many things we gained from the incident. We saw the protection of the Lord for us in action. We saw the way he guided our footsteps so that even though we were injured, it was not fatal. We saw his power in protecting our two daughters and even our unborn son who though bruised and battered, was born and has grown into a fit and healthy man.
Yes there was much to be thankful for in this event and it had ripple effects out into friends and family. I don’t ask why it happened as with the value of years of hindsight I can see God’s hand in this. Instead I just thank him that God saves and God protects his people and take comfort knowing he watches over us.
Please also let me know if you find something here that has helped you, provided hope or given you reason to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Also if you have any questions then please feel free to contact me.