Something called Respect
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile his friends watched helplessly, the 21 year old was swept away by an avalanche and buried in two meters of snow. He was the only one who had not been able to get clear of the sudden slide bringing white death. The other four who were ahead of him, ran down to where they had seen him buried by snow. They broke off birch branches and tried to dig out the snow with the wood. Desperately, they clawed at the snow with their bare hands until their hands froze. “The snow was hard as concrete,” said his best friend. When they found him, it was already too late. What should have been a fun weekend skiing in the mountains and camping in a cabin, ended in traumatic tragedy.Every year the snow-capped mountains of Northern Europe claims lives. No matter how experienced people are about the lay of the land, avalanches can occur without warning. The force of nature is monstrous. A fifty year old man lost his life in the very area where he used to lead safety courses, teaching people how to stay safe in a winter environment. A week later, two young men in their late teens drove off to test-drive their snow scooters. They were not dressed warmly enough as they were only going for a short spin in the snow. Snow scooters are built to transact the snow covered slopes at great speed. The scooters unexpectedly ran out of fuel and the boys found themselves trapped in a snowstorm. Without proper clothing, they had little resistance against the freezing wind temperatures, and both of them died of hypothermia within hours of each other. One of them stayed alive while he was driven to hospital. At first he showed feeble symptoms of life, but died despite the highly sophisticated medical care he received.
An avalanche is not a pretty thing. It is a moving mass of hard, compact snow which picks up mud, rocks, and tree branches on its way down. As it goes into motion, it picks up tremendous speed and power. Travelling at its great speed, whatever is in its way is flattened to the ground. The aftermath of an avalanche is an ugly sight. Young, strong trees by the hundreds, snapped in two with their broken branches littering the path of the snow-slide. It’s no small wonder avalanches are considered one of the big hazards of living in an arctic environment. Many hilly places have avalanche guards, which are embankments that temporarily hinder the onward rush of the snow mass and prevent it from hurtling onto the roads, causing more damage. Cars hit by avalanches cave inwards leaving few survivors. Wooden houses are smashed effortlessly. The hard snow is stone hard so it can kill humans easily. Nature at its violent best is fearsome and man is so fragile next to its might. These deaths always feel so unnecessary. Each time it happens one is reminded, Respect Nature with a big R.
Fortunately I can leave you with another true story, which has a happier ending. A man was camping in his cabin which he had built at the foot of a hill. As he prepared to go to sleep, a sharp knock came at the door. The man wondered who it might be as the cabin was quite far from human habitation. Perhaps it was a hunter needing shelter for the night. He got up and opened the door but there was no one there. Puzzled, the man closed the door and got ready for bed. A few minutes later, the knocking came again. The man shuffled to the door and opened it, but this time too, there was no one there. Irritated now, the man shut the door with a bang.
When the knocking came a third time, the man put on his boots and jacket and pulled the door violently open. As before, there was no one there. He shouted angrily and ran out of the cabin. Opposite his shed stood a shadowy figure looking as though it was trying to hide away. The man gave chase and ran out after the shadow. Seconds later he heard a crashing sound behind him. A huge avalanche had surged down the hill and crashed into his cabin, completely destroying it. Had he not run out, he would have been crushed to sure death. That is the other side of life that commands our respect: the supernature that defies the laws of nature to save one precious human life.