Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's a Miracle!

For those of you living outside the Northwest, you may have been missing a heartwrenching tale of staggering courage. An area man was last seen jogging near Cougar Mountain last Friday early in the morning. His car was found in the parking lot. When he failed to return, his wife notified police. Dozens of volunteers gave up their weekends to scour Cougar Mountain for this man, to no avail. When the poor lost soul wasn't found, our community feared the worst. The search-and-rescue operation was called off on Monday. This is the kind of story that make us upset here in Seattle. As we drink our coffee and read the morning paper, we ponder the capricious nature of others' mortality, and we debate whether to light candles.

Here, I'll let the Seattle Post-Intelligencer explain:

Fellow runners search for missing Issaquah man

ISSAQUAH -- King County sheriff's Deputy Peter Linde stood in the rain near a Cougar Mountain trailhead Sunday afternoon and shook his head.

For the third straight day, King County search and rescue teams combed an 11-square-mile area, desperately searching for Michael Schreck -- the Issaquah man and father of two teenagers who left for a Friday morning run and never returned.

Searchers brought dogs, horses and twice scanned the area with heat sensors by helicopter. But early Sunday evening, they seemed to have no more solid leads than they did two days earlier, and Linde looked at a Cougar Mountain map as though it were a Rubik's Cube.

"This guy just disappeared," he said.

It was a sad story, a tale that includes all the elements of tragedy that allow us to identify with his plight. He has children. He's white. He was out in nature, lost. Someone couldn't figure out a Rubik's cube. The story was worthy. Dozens of us gathered in the front yard of Kurt Cobain's old home to light candles. Then, a miracle:

Missing jogger turns up, and says he fell into a ravine

ISSAQUAH -- Was it an incredible story of survival or just a case of someone who didn't want to be found?

That's what some are wondering after 47-year-old Michael Schreck, whose disappearance set off a massive search on Cougar Mountain, suddenly showed up at his family's Issaquah home late Monday with a remarkable story of living off nothing but muddy creek water since Friday.

"He said he fell into a ravine and he's been unconscious since then," King County sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said. "We're going to take his story at face value."


The statement thanked searchers and, by way of explanation, said Michael Schreck slipped off a Squak Mountain trail and was knocked unconscious. The area was part of an 11-square-mile search with no sign of the jogger, police said.

The family's statement said Schreck was beneath a log and covered with leaves for warmth. He suffered no serious injuries, they said. When deputies interviewed him about 1 a.m. Tuesday, he appeared in perfect health.

"No injuries, no bumps or bruises," Urquhart said.

This tremendous news warmed our heart cockles. Right now, we would be lighting candles in celebration if not for the naysayers. You see, after this stirring ordeal, some people actually have the nerve to question our brave hero. I guess that's what we do in our society. We build up heroes, and then when we see them standing above us on a pedestal, we look for weaknesses and paint their balls red.

This criticism is entirely unfounded. Let me explain.

It's often difficult for me to present someone else's point of view, especially when it's illogical, but I'll do my best. Some people -- in many cases embittered rescuers disappointed with their own incompetent search techniques -- claim that his story doesn't make sense. There are three main claims.

Claim 1: If he was knocked unconscious for three days, their twisted logic goes, how did he snuggle under a log and cover himself with leaves?

Look, this kind of thing happens to me all the time. When I'm riding home from work, I'll run into a tree and kind of black out. I'll wake up a few minutes later under a park bench or a pile of leaves, shake it off, and get back on my bike. Wendy is usually upset with me for not coming home when I'm supposed to, but it happens regularly. Ask her. I suppose if I got hit in the head much harder, I might be out for three days instead of thirty minutes, and then I'd be in the headlines: "Area Man Missing, Bicycle Found." I'm fairly certain the article would mention my wife and twin sons.

Claim 2: If he got injured seriously enough to knock him out for three days, why doesn't he have any bumps or bruises?

Nit, meet picker.

Claim 3: If he was really knocked out for three days and then walked five miles back home, why wasn't he dehydrated?

Fish in a barrel. Because he drank water from a creek on his way home, that's why. I agree with the hero's neighbor: "Sometimes miracles like this happen." Yes, yes, they do.

I have turned on comments so that you can pour out your heartfelt expressions in this time of joy and disbelief.