Wednesday, December 06, 2006

James Kim

I never met James Kim, but I've been following his family's plight for days, since I first logged into CNET (to look for laptop recommendations) and noticed the news item in the corner. I was crushed this afternoon when I read that his body had been recovered, eleven days after his family first left Portland.

How many parents can see themselves in the eyes of James and Kati Kim? How many of us shuddered as we read about Kati nursing the children once the food ran out in order to keep them alive? About them burning the tires of their car for heat? About the items of clothing James left so he could be found? He sounded so strong and so resilient, and we all hoped and prayed that he would be found alive, waving at a helicopter with a grin on his face.

One of his daughters shares the name of our niece in Oregon. It was a small tidbit that made the story hit harder.

He was near my age, a man in his mid-thirties with young children. I saw myself in him. I could imagine all too clearly falling into the dire circumstances that befell them. It was a simple series of mistakes.

Kati Kim told officers they were traveling south from Portland on Interstate 5 and missed the turnoff to a state highway, Oregon 42, that leads through the Coast Range to Gold Beach, where they planned to stay at a resort.

After leaving Portland on Interstate 5, search leaders said, the couple missed a turnoff that leads to the coast and took a wrong turn on a twisty mountain road they chose as an alternative.
I can imagine doing this. A wrong turn, a poor choice of a road that goes from bad to impassable. Sure. I can see this. And suddenly there we are, trapped in the car, scrambling to find food, huddling together for warmth.

When I was a kid, I read one of those stories in Reader's Digest about families ending up in unthinkable situations and making their way back to civilization. This one was about a family whose car broke down in the desert. They sucked cactus leaves for the moisture, I remember. They rubbed aloe on their bodies to cool their sunburns. But they made it home safely, to live and write about their experience.

We're driving to Oregon this Christmas. I'm repacking our emergency kit with food, warmer blankets, a flashlight. I don't ever want to be trapped like the Kim family. I know that I would do everything to save my wife and my child, but I'm just not confident I could be as ingenuous or as creative as James and Kati were. I don't ever want to find out.


Phil said...

I'm with you here - when we were in Ashland last summer, I was looking at maps to try to find a quick route to the ocean for a day's recreation. I was tempted by the network of forest service roads that I think attracted Kim.

I can also see myself striking out on foot in an effort to just fucking do something.

Sad. Just really sad.

Have a terrific holiday season, Bluesky family, from the Perils!

Paul G. said...

I remember James' first appearance on Tech TV.
The nervous but confident young man that grew in presence right before our eyes.
His wedding in 1999 and the birth of their first child.
The intimacy of ZD then Tech TV made the on air talent a part of us and so when we learned of their plight and the final loss it became a loss for all of us.

James was a great guy and I hope his wife and children learn how many of us appreciated him and his quiet goodness and strength who share in a small way in their loss.