We were so relieved when one of the two missing teen hikers, Nicholas Cendoya, was found Wednesday night in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest. His hiking companion, Kyndall Jack, was found Thursday morning. Both were shoeless, disoriented, and dehydrated. Cendoya couldn't say much of anything about what happened at first. But now that he's had time to recover in the hospital, he's finally talking about his experience. He told reporters, "We weren't meant to die."
Cendoya says all he and Kyndall wanted was to have an "Easter adventure." Apparently this was the first time the two had hung out together (a first date, maybe?). But it was a hike that changed his life. For Cendoya, this near brush with death was almost a spiritual experience.
Cendoya's story is that he and Jack got lost about a mile away from his parked car. They called 911, but the battery died. While trying to find their way down a mountain, he fell and became separated from Jack. Cendoya's doctor reports that his lungs show evidence of blunt trauma that could have caused amnesia. The teen says he remembers going into "a lucid dream, I fell and was unconscious."
From then on, Cendoya remembers little. He ate plants and hallucinated being stalked by tigers -- and Jesus. "The whole time I was lost, I felt the presence of Jesus and my friend, Carlos, who died last year of cancer," Cendoya says. "I felt they were both with me, inspiring me to stay alive." Now feeling the pull of a higher purpose in life, Cendoya says he wants to be a police officer or a firefighter.
As for Jack, rescuers found her in fetal position, holding on for dear life on a small ledge. "She asked me what year it was," says L.A. County Sheriff's Reserve Deputy Fred Wenzel. "She thought it was the year 2030. She was very confused."
Okay, I'm just going to say what all the other reporters are thinking: Drugs? I think this little "Easter adventure" may have involved some peyote. Or something else life-changing. Of course, dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion can cause hallucinations, too. Neither of them had any water -- and they were lost for days.
Anyway, what matters most is that these two kids survived. And if the whole nightmare has given Cendoya a higher sense of purpose, more power to him -- no matter how he got there. Both teens are lucky to be alive, and I don't think either of them will forget that.
Have you ever felt like you've been saved from a life-threatening situation by a higher power?
Image via Orange County Sheriff's Department