Alicia St. John
From an early age, I was a girl who out of circumstance found it necessary to be a responsible adult, completely independent, take care of my parent and never ask for help.
Such girls may walk gracefully in their strength, but they are not the princess in the tower. They are usually kind warriors and protectors, and they cherish wisdom. How else can a girl navigate the world?
So it overwhelms my soul when I am witness to the heroism of men and women — the extraordinary lengths of humanity given freely and without concern for self.
I hear of these stories from across the globe, in remote places or cities, where life and death coexist minute by minute, second by second.
I need to add my voice to the many who have expressed their gratitude and speak again of the incredible heroism here in Santa Barbara, this blessed and incomparably beautiful place.
So here I lie with a broken leg, having just recovered from surgery and I wish to thank my heroes with all of my heart. I was not Ashley Judd, who tripped over a log and broke her leg in the Congo, at 4:30 a.m., searching for rare primates. Nor was I Brooke Shields, who broke her leg on the last day of her personal training session, in the gym, while practicing balancing. If this is beginning to sound like Edward Gorey’s “Amalphgory,” yes that is a personal favorite.
I have the idiotic distinction of breaking my leg simply walking on a very slight incline, which was covered in fine gravel.
The punchline is that it was a mountain trail, on which I have actually run almost every day, over the past 18 years.I know every rock and blade of grass on that trail.
Of course, I was at first in denial and tried to stand, but the pain would not let me stand. I dragged myself to the waterfall and plunged my leg into the water and within a few minutes the cold water was simply not enough to hide the pain.
Three hikers called 911 and sunset was approaching.
I was at least 45 minutes up from the trailhead. So the timely arrival of the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team was a glorious sight.
The first wave of rescuers were a team of four men, who strapped me up and proceeded to carry me down the narrow, rocky mountain path, as if I were an Egyptian mummy.
My view was of the sky darkening, and I could not stop apologizing to these men nor thanking them. hey were met half way down by another team of men and one woman, and so I had eight brave souls navigating the steep and winding cliffside, protecting me from a fall, which would have finished me.
In my prone and helpless position, I could only compare the experience to author James Gray’s rendition of the “Lost City of Z” and actor Charlie Hunnam being carried thus by the South American shaman and natives to his destiny.
So I prayed to God and thanked the God within each of these brave men, for rescuing me and taking me to my destiny.
Please make no mistake, that the search and rescue team of Santa Barbara County saved my life. My gratitude is immense. It is a debt of gratitude that I will find some positive way in which to repay. But I will need a few weeks to walk again!
The author lives in Santa Barbara.