Last night's 20/20 episode "The Wrong Turn" featured the terrifying story of James and Kati Kim who went on a 2006 Thanksgiving road trip. The Kims left San Francisco and headed north to visit friends and ended up travelling through the back woods of Oregon with their daughters -- Penelope, 4-years-old, and Sabine, 7 months. They went missing.
A massive search was quickly underway, but it took nine days for a resuce team to finally spot their car from the air. And what happened during those nine days is every family's worst nightmare.
They made a series of bad turns while looking for Gold Beach. A steel gate that should have been locked was open, and the family travelled along a treacherous logging path that shouldn't have been accessible to the public.
It was dark. It was cold. They were running low on gas, and there was no cell phone service.
The Kims tried writing SOS in the snow, they left notes on the logger's gate, they honked their horn to keep bears away. Kati breastfeed both her children when the food ran out, but by the fifth day of being stranded everyone was weak and starving.
The little bit of gas they had to keep the car idling ran out and they burned the tires and their daughter's stuffed lamb in hopes the flames would send a signal so they could be found. And this is when Kati told James this:
I made him promise me that if anything happened to the children and if they died that he would take his pocket knife, and he would slit my wrists, and he would lie us all out in the snow together.
I remembered this story when it actually happened a little over four years ago. And I knew the outcome was bad. But hearing her say those words was too much to bear. I wasn't a mom in 2006, but I am now. Like Kati, I have two children, my daughter's name is also Penelope. And imagining what she went through ... well, I just can't. My heart hurts for her, as a fellow mother, a wife. And her husband -- her brave husband James -- left the car on the seventh day to search for help.
Two days later the car was found. Kati, Penelope, and Sabine were alive but were suffering from frostbite and were near starvation.
James was found lying on his back in icy water on December 6th, two days after he left his family looking for help and about 16 miles from the car and a mile from a lodge. He died from hypothermia.
This is the time when we have to stop and think. This tragedy could happen to anyone. We have to be thankful for what we do have, to live each day and moment fully, and hug our children and tell them we love them. We need to stop and kiss our husband or wife and not get caught up in the petty nonense. Because it can all end when we least expect it. That's what Kati Kim's story should teach us. And we should send our well wishes to the surviving Kim family.
Did you watch the Kati Kim story on 20/20?
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