14 Hours of Hell and Heroes: A true life search and rescue incident on St. Eustatius, Part 2 of 2

14 Hours of Hell and Heroes: A true life search and rescue incident on St. Eustatius, Part 2 of 2

On Friday, October 20, the article “Major operation to rescue hiker who fell into crater of Quill in Statia” was featured in The Daily Herald, telling the surreal story of rescue and survival of a 50-year-old hiker, who had fallen deep on the inner side of the crater of the National Park (Quill) in St. Eustatius. Although the rescue operation was marred when the hiker, as well as those participating in the rescue operation, was attacked by bees, the hiker was successfully rescued.

The hiker, Damon Corrie, speaks about the experience in his own words below. A member of the Eagle Clan Lokono-Arawaks from Barbados and Guyana, Corrie invites readers to learn more about the group via the website: www.eagleclanarawaks.com. He precedes his story by sharing: “You should always cultivate a positive attitude in your life, no matter what happens to you.” Part-one was published in the October 27th edition of The Weekender.

Here is the second and final part of his story:

I was discharged from the hospital on October 20 at 11:30am, because nothing serious was wrong and I told them they were only wasting their time and mine (and my money) keeping me in the hospital any longer. So that’s the short version that omits no relevant points or humorous moments.

Do you know what did come to my mind and mattered most to me in those 14 hours of sleep deprivation torture? It was all the little things in life we take for granted every day – making jokes with my wife, mum, kids, siblings, and other relatives and friends; drinking a big glass of cold water; eating sweet, natural fruit unsprayed by pesticides – as we have so abundantly still in the Caribbean; the pricelessness of peace; and the fact that there is no such thing as a “war crime” – because war itself is a crime!

So many more thoughts ran through my mind: Will I see and hold my grandsons again; get to discuss dreams and visions with my loved ones? See some foolishness again that’ll make me laugh till my sides ache. Well, that one came true immediately – as I started to remember all the foolishness I did in my life just for laughs – then indeed my sides ached from the laughter (but because my rib cage was already in pain this time…lol).

When I realized I had fallen from perhaps the worst location in the whole volcano to be found, I made peace with myself that I might not make it down physically alive because I didn't know how much longer I could shout back for help. It hurt my ribs to do so – and I was getting weaker, more dehydrated, and did not know how much longer I could last exposed to the elements; my strength ebbing away.

I vowed to appear in spirit form to my wife and kids, mother and siblings – and let them know I was back in a better place with Dad again and all the other loved ones who have gone before me, if it came to that. Not once did money or material possessions enter my mind as being anything even worthy of a thought. Yet how many of us dedicate our lives to this very same spiritually trivial pursuit?

I just want to thank all my rescuers – all of you are heroes and the perfect examples of how true human beings should be. People of all races, voluntarily coming together in a time of crisis to find and save a stranger from another race and faith and country, because none of that superficial nonsense matters to God, only to silly mortals. I admired seeing them cooperate so seamlessly and selflessly with such passion and concern about saving the life of a stranger. This world would be the paradise it was intended to be if we all took a leaf out of my rescuers’ book.

Again, folks, if you have followed me long enough on social media, you will know that I am the eternal optimist (with some pessimistic seasoning at times, like with world events). I never let anything external rob me of my personal happiness in my life. Even on my personal cross of pain for 14 hours not knowing if I would be rescued, I said to myself, “I can’t wait to see the tidal wave of good luck that’s gonna come my way after this.” It always happens that when misfortune tries to bring me down, unexpected and increased good fortune lifts me up afterward every time.

Even our favourite Airbnb on St. Eustatius – Zevers Pundt Guest House (Linda Jaqueline Berkel, property manager) was kind enough to let my wife (who is still stuck over there alone) stay in the room for free until the hurricane passes. You need a place like this to stay that has your back if anything goes wrong, folks.

I had to be airlifted out by helicopter (no room for wifey) with one of my rescuers who nearly died from the number of bee stings he got, and another brother of one of my rescuers. [This person] was on his way to help look for me when he got into a motorcycle accident that pelted him through the air. He slid several meters on the road on his bare face (no helmet), so it’s not only me that suffered in this real lifetime drama version of “a series of unfortunate events”.

Believe in the power of God and prayer, and always believe in yourself. I’ll say it again, I don’t regret that this happened to me at all (only that others got hurt, too) because it was a great learning experience for me personally. Very few humans alive can say they fell 30 feet onto rocks and cartwheeled backward into a tree that knocked them unconscious, and yet walked away with nothing but one head wound that healed on its own without stitches, and only skin scrapes and bruises.

Once again, I have another unbeatable real-life adventure to tell my children and grandchildren. I now have two new “records” – most difficult rescue for St. Eustatius island, and the first person to fall off the volcano rim. So in this manner, I see the humour in my own tragedies. Y’all must try not to be so ready and willing to play your own “woe is me” tiny “sympathy attracting” violin when you have a problem. Find a solution and just deal with it, like I did. Nothing gets me down because I refuse to be defeated by anything.

I fell 30 feet off a mountain onto rocks on Wednesday, was found and rescued Thursday, and discharged from the St. Maarten hospital Friday – less than 60 hours after it all started, because all the tests found nothing beyond surface abrasions. I got right back to work, because I have things to do and I’d wasted enough time already. That’s the kind of “everything bad that happens is a learning experience for me” attitude you need to have in your life. Then you will never need “therapy” for anything. There is always good out there in this wide world, my friends. If you are always looking for it, you will always find it.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get the names of everyone who helped rescue me, but trust me when I say it was an international effort of some of the greatest human beings – friends for life – you could ever meet. Even Her Excellency Governor Dame Alida Francis was at base camp to organize the effort in person and hug my wife when she first came down before me. She was to have travelled, but she told my wife she can't heave her island when a rescue operation is underway. God bless her and her moral integrity and sense of duty to her island.

The team that found me: Jethro van’t Hul, Stenapa, Reforestation Ranger; Eduard van Beelen, Stenapa, National Park Ranger; Rupnor ‘Jobo’ Redan, Stenapa, National Park Ranger; Nathalie, Pharmacist; Junior; Other Stenapa staff: Simone Erroi, Research and Monitoring Officer, Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Butler, Marine Park Manager (who found my exact location first and radioed it to Jethro and the rest of the team), Bridie Matthews, Marine Park Ranger; Adam Mitchell, Invasive Species Officer; Francois Mille, Marine Park Ranger; Erik Boman, Director; Organizations: Stenapa; Statia Government; St. Eustatius Police Department; St. Eustatius Fire Department; Queen Beatrix Medical Center; Statia Rapid Response; Statia Sea Rescue Foundation; GTI Fire and Rescue; Celbees; Team Stuco. Other people: Celford Gibbs (Celbees), Gerda Gibbs (Celbees), Javier Gomez (Statia Government), Vincent, Ben, and two more men whose names I don’t know yet (Acrobat X), Joanna Spanner, Christian and Paul (GTI), Kyle Belleau, Ryan, Bryan, physicians Ajay and Anna, Caro, Leontine, Marion, Ebony, Licio, and all the doctors, nurses and ambulance paramedics at the St. Eustatius Hospital and St. Maarten Medical Center who all treated me with the utmost care, professionalism and, most importantly, love.

The Daily Herald

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