Overcoming Fear

January 14, 2013
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“Welcome to Glacier National Park.” The ranger told Rose’s mom, Sandy, who had pulled her car up to the booth.

“Thank you. Where will I find the visitor’s center?”

Rose looked out her window as Sandy listened to the directions, thanked the ranger, and then drove away.

“It’s beautiful out, Mom. Today is a perfect day for you to finally overcome your fear of heights. I’m so excited!” Rose exclaimed.

The bright, snowy mountains seemed to form a sort of ring. They circled a clear, blue lake while other mountains extended off the circle and out, like rays. The giant blue and white mountains’ image floated on the surface of the lake. Rose could hardly tell where the mountains stopped and the water started. The sky was a solid baby blue color. The sun warmed the ground so that a sweet smell rose from the soil and wildflowers then wafted into the open car windows.

“Yes, Rose, it is very nice out. Tom is so lucky that he gets to work here. He sees this view every day!” Sandy said. “It all looks so nice from down here that I don’t think it is necessary for me to go on Tom’s tour up the mountain. I think I’ll just stay down here.” Sandy looked over, smiling at Rose’s scowl. “I am only joking, honey. Dr. Smith told me that this drive should be my final step toward fully overcoming my fear of heights. I am going to follow through with it, even though I’m really nervous.”

“You will be fine. Tom is a great driver,” Rose said, smiling.

The car pulled into the parking lot of the visitor’s center. Rose stepped out and breathed in the fresh air. Sandy stood beside her and held her hand as they walked toward the parked tour bus.

Rose spotted Tom and ran over to give him a hug. Sandy caught up a few moments later. Tom patted her on the back with a gloved hand.

“Good luck, Mom. You will have fun today. Don’t worry,” He told Sandy. “Rose, keep an eye on Mom,” he told his sister.

“Of course I will. Mom will be fine. She has been meditating all morning and practicing loud breathing exercises. It’s not like the ride will be that bad anyway. Which mountain are we driving up?”

Tom pointed to the highest peak. Rose stared up at the tall and rugged mountain. Her eyes widened but she did not say anything.

“It will be okay,” Sandy’s voice cracked. “Tom is a safe driver, right Tom?”

“Of course. That’s my job!” He smiled warmly.

Tom began to speak to the crowd that had assembled around the bus. “Welcome, today I will be your tour guide. The sky is perfectly clear so we can plan on seeing some beautiful views. If we get lucky we may even see wildlife. A group that went out earlier today saw a grizzly bear,” he said, “so let’s keep an eye out for him. All aboard!”

The red roofless tour bus traveled along the twisting road. Rose could just make out a tiny island with only four trees on it peeking out of the surface of the lake. Tom explained that this was created by a landslide. The rocks piled up in the lake and formed an island.

After driving for about an hour, Rose was ready to stand up. Sandy had been completely pressed against her as they drove along the cliff-lined road. Neither of them had expected the drive to be quite so frightening. Rose kept reassuring Sandy that Tom knew what he was doing and that it was perfectly safe, but secretly she was scared, herself. The views were absolutely stunning, but they were also knee-weakening.

The bus turned a corner. Rose could suddenly see a bighorn sheep crossing the road only ten feet in front of the bus. The sheep tossed his head and continued to cross at a leisurely pace. His delicate hooves carefully stepped in a slow rhythm. Tom pressed the breaks. Gripping Sandy’s arm, Rose watched as the bus hit the sheep. It cried out in pain as the wheels turned over its back. Its crying soon stopped and was replaced by a sickening quiet.

“Is everybody okay?” Tom broke the silence as he unbuckled himself and began to stand up. At that moment an unsuspecting car turned the corner and crashed into the back of the bus. Tom flew forward, hit his head on the front of the bus, and crumpled over the steering wheel, unconscious. The bus continued rolling forward until the two front wheels hung over the cliff’s edge.

The passengers clung on to each other, screaming and crying. Some tried to climb out of the side doors. The bus began rocking from the movement. Rose braced herself against the side of the bus and hugged her mother, who was shaking uncontrollably.

“Mom, help! Mom, we have to save Tom! Mom! Mom!” Rose began crying, watching helplessly as the passengers screamed. “Mom, help us!” Rose pleaded.

After a long moment of hesitation Sandy drew in a deep breath and stood up to face the passengers. She called out “everyone, be quiet and don’t move! We will exit carefully. People in the front will get off first so the back stays heavier. Someone needs to help me carry my son off safely.” She gestured to Tom.

A man in the second row raised his hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll get your son off safely,” he said. Sandy and Rose climbed into the back before the man climbed to the front. He dragged Tom out by scooping up underneath his arms. The bus swayed and the passengers gasped and leaned back. The man dragged Tom over the seats and out the side door. The rest of the first row filed out after them.

Once everyone had climbed off safely, the bus began creaking and slowly sliding forward. Finally it lost its grip and crashed down the cliff’s side. The sound of metal hitting rock echoed throughout the area, bouncing off mountains and cliffs.

Rose watched the bus fall. She realized that if her mother had not been brave, if she had not become the leader, people would still have been on that bus when it had fallen. Looking around she saw that everyone else realized that, too. In the gaping silence following the crashing of the bus, a timid round of applause began to form. Soon it gained confidence and all of the passengers were clapping, hooting, and whistling. Sandy’s face turned red as she received many high-fives, pats on the back, and kind and thankful words.

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