Chapter 45: Flashback

Bran lays at my feet asleep as I try to suppress a yawn, without much success. These speakers were killing me. It was one after another speaking about how great the SAR organization was and what they did. They all spoke in a monotone voice, lacking all emotion, and reminding me of my Biology teacher from my freshman year of high school. The schedule said that these people would talk before the dinner, and then after the dinner came the more personal stories and awards/ recognitions commenced. So here I sit, starving and listening to this guy who I swear has been talking for 3 years, Thank GOD he was the last one to speak before dinner.

“Of course there was the time when… but I suppose that is a story for another time. With out any further time spent on you listening to these eloquent speakers. I encourage you to eat heartily, before the next set of speakers come up,” the red faced man at the podium says.

“Oh thank the Lord!” I sigh causing all the players at my table to laugh.

“Hungry there Ace?!” Ryan Whitney laughs.

“Starved! I haven’t eaten anything all day!” I sigh.

Soon, but not soon enough for me, the food comes. You had the choice between chicken, steak, a salad, plus different sides. I was so hungry I could have eaten an elephant so I went for the next best thing… a cow. They even had a dog menu for the rescue dogs that were there, which I was grateful for, other wise I would have had to share my steak with Bran.

After eating, we had time to mingle with others before the speakers started. Oh, how I love to mingle. Everyone was standing up with champagne in their hands, talking to someone, about something.

Sid gets up from his chair and whispers in my ear, “Are you ready to go meet them?”

‘Oh my god, I totally forgot about the Lemieux’s!’ I thought in a panic.
The panicked look on my face made Sidney chuckle.

“They will love you, I promise,” He smiles giving me a reassuring peck on the lips.

With a forced smile I got up and followed him. His hand holding mine as we crossed the room to another table.

“Mario, Natalie, this is the girl I was telling you about,” he said calmly, moving his arm around my waist.

They both turn in their seats to look at us, smiling. I was frozen; in front of me was the man that I had watched on the screen of our TV, sitting in my dad’s lap. It was one of my earliest memories, watching the great Mario Lemieux play. I quickly snap out of it as they stood up, Mario towering over me.

“It’s very nice to meet you Miss Shaw,” he says holding out his hand for me to shake.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Lemieux, and you can call me Caitlin,” I smile taking his firm handshake.

“Only if you call me Mario,” he says with a laugh.

“Alright,” I smile back, his laugh breaking some of the tension. I turn to his wife and hold out my hand for her to shake but she takes me into a hug instead.

“And before you say anything, you can call me Nat,” she says hugging me tightly.

“Ha, okay,” I say laughing into her shoulder. She pulls me back at arms length and looks at me.

“Sidney’s told us so much about you. You look gorgeous tonight,” she smiles at me, Mario puts his hand on her shoulder and smiles at me too.

“You did well with this one Sid. How did you get so lucky, to get her?” he laughs smiling at me, making me blush.

“I have no idea,” I hear Sid say quietly; I look to see him smile at me, his eyes shinning.

After engaging in some small talk for a little while, they finally let us go back to their table, only after we promised to have lunch at their house as soon as we could.

“See I told you they would love you,” he says leaning down to whisper in my ear as we walk away.

“I really like them, they’re really nice,” I smile up at him, “Thanks for introducing me to them.” I say giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks for letting me,” he smiles back.

“Caitlin, Bran!!” I hear someone shout from the other table as Sid and I approach ours. I turn to see a woman in her mid 30s and a man in his early 30s come running up to me, two dogs behind them.
”Oh my gosh it’s so good to see you two,” I say wrapping each in a hug, feeling the eyes of the players on me.

“My dear you look gorgeous, and very handsome Bran,” the woman smiles at me. She has curly brown hair and blue eyes, with a medium frame all coupled with a huge smile on her face. She had a large German Shepard sitting next to her, waiting to see Bran.

“Did you bring Flash and Hawk?” the man asks. Even though he was in his early 30s he already had a little gray around his temples, but he had a very muscular build and his face had been roughened by cold mountain weather. Next to him stood a black lab, shaking with excitement and waiting for his cue to come see Bran and I.

“No, they stayed at home with my other dogs,” I say with a smile, “Alright Bran go see them.”

Bran gets up from his place his tail wagging as he greats the other dogs and their handlers. I crouch down to pet the lab and Shepard. The Shepard greets me briefly before turning back to Bran and staying by his side. The lab on the other hand is extremely excited to see me and can’t resist giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you Smokey, I missed you too,” I laugh scratching him behind the ears. I hear someone clear their throat behind me.

“Oh, right. I’m sorry,” I laugh as the players look at me expectantly, “Guys this is Maureen Fritz and Al Pine, they were part of my bigger team in Newfoundland. Al, Maureen these are my friend and Penguins Players, Jordan Staal and his girlfriend Anya, Ryan and Alexis Malone, Colby and Sara Armstrong, Marc Andre and Laura Fleury, and my boyfriend Sidney Crosby.” I say pointing everyone out, “Oh and that’s Maureen’s rescue dog Lily and Al’s Rescue dog Smokey.”

“If I could have everyone’s attention please, we will start the stories,” the fat red-faced man said at the podium, giving everyone the cue to take their seats.

Two victims had already told their stories, one was a flood victim the other and earthquake victim, there was one speaker left and I knew it had to be an avalanche victim, I just hoped to God that it wasn’t the disaster I had been at.

“Last but not least, we have Kerry Donaldson from the recent Newfoundland Avalanche that occurred this January. Kerry.” The fat speaker reads off a card before pointing to a woman in the middle of the stage.

The spotlight shines on the tall blonde woman who was in a strapless black dress, a box of tissues beside her, just like the rest of the victims telling their stories. I inhale quickly, her face was one that I would probably never forget, and if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t have forgotten her daughter’s.

Luckily, everyone at my table, except for Bran, seems unaware that I’m having a mild break down. I was already swallowing tears as I could feel them well up, the vivid pictures of that trip, the cold dead faces coming back to me again. Bran immediately puts his head in my laps and nuzzles my hand.

“Hello everyone, and thank you for sticking around to hear my story. The memories of this past January are very real, being that it has happened so recently. Umm… I haven’t really written anything, so I’m just going to go at it… and I’m sorry if I break down, but you are just going to have to bear with me,” she begins taking a shaky breath in.

“My day started on a beautiful day. The sun was shining and my husband and daughter wanted to go skiing again. I however was feeling a little sore from our skiing adventure the day before, and I felt a cold coming on. So I stayed in the lodge with my hot chocolate wrapped in a warm blanket, while my husband and daughter went out and hit the slopes. I remember tying my little girl’s blue hat tightly under her neck and kissing her cheek before she left.” Her tears were beginning to fall now, making my tears threaten to break loose too.

“About an hour later, I heard this sound like a train, actually louder than a train. I looked out the window and saw just this huge menacing cloud of white quickly rumbling toward the lodge. There was lots of screaming going on and I remember hiding under a table with some strange man that I didn’t know. I remember it rumbling closer until it was on us. The rumble was deafing like nothing I had ever heard before, had it not been so loud I probably would have heard glass breaking and wood snapping. Before I could think again, I was swept up and was rolling with the snow.

It went black and I couldn’t see anything. Snow was pushing me around from all sides, I didn’t know what was up, and what was down. After watching a TV show I remembered to stay calm, that way I wouldn’t waste my oxygen if I was breathing normally. I stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity, and I remember think, I’m going to die today. I was starting to lose air and consciousness when I heard shouting from my right, and then a dog bark.

‘I’m here! I’m here!’ I remember shouting as loud as I possibly could. The voices came closer and the barking became louder. Suddenly it wasn’t pitch black anymore and light was coming through the snow. The first thing that came in contact with me was a wet black nose. I knew I had been found then and that’s when I lost all consciousness.

I woke up to find my self in a hospital bed. I looked around in a panic wondering why I was there when the avalanche came rushing back to me. And then it clicked, I was alive! I had survived an avalanche! However my joy was short lived.

The nurse and doctor walked in saying they were glad I was awake, but I shook my head.
I asked them where my husband and daughter were. They looked at each other, and said that they didn’t know, making warm tears fall down my cheeks.

As soon as they would allow me, which was not until a day later, I was back at the lodge, or rather where the lodge once stood, with nothing but a few stitches on my cheek. I had learned that the avalanche had decimated everything, and no one knew anything about my daughter or husband.

One of the paramedics said that they thought they had found my husband, and showed me into a large tent. In that tent, was the most horrifying things I had ever seen. Table after table of frozen bodies. Some were clothed, others weren’t, some had a look of horror on their faces, their eyes still open in shock. Others had died peacefully. Some looked like they were sleeping, while others had objects sticking out of them. My breath quickened, and I could see it infront of my face, coming out like a train, as one man led me over to a body with the description that matched my husband. I looked at the face and immediately started to cry, his face was one that I dreaded seeing most, but it was him. His eyes were still slightly open and he hand his hands across his chest as if he was trying to keep warm. But his lips were a bluish-purple, his skin a little frosty.

They guided me back to a hotel where all the survivors were staying, said they would contact me on any word about my daughter. And so I waited. You know how I said that waiting under that snow felt like an eternity, well compared to waiting to find out what happened to your three year old daughter, that only takes a second,” she said shaking her head gravely, a tear slid down my cheek. I was losing my battle.

At her saying about her three-year-old daughter, Sidney’s eyes suddenly opened wide and he snaps his head around to look at me. All I could do was nod my head, he knew. He sighs and grabs my hand, he leans over and whispers, “Do you want to leave?”
I shook my head.
“Well then, how bout we go stand over there,” he says pointing to a secluded corner.

I nod and he pulls me out of my chair to the corner. Once there he put his arm around my waist and we stood and listened. Bran sat next to me as another tear slipped down my cheek.

“Day after day seemed to crawl by. I went to the scene again and really took it in. Nothing was left, and I mean nothing. It was a wide vast blanket of white. Tents were put up, and searchers and dogs were dotted along the snow,” she continues, “Then after 5 days of waiting there was a knock on my hotel door. They lead me to the tent like they had done before and straight over to the smallest body in there. Her blond hair was curled out of her little blue hat, her pink snowsuit still on her. Besides her off color skin she looked like she was sleeping.” Kerry says with a small smile, her eyes clouded and looking off into the past, “As soon as I saw her I was silent. My eyes welled up with tears and then I began to cry hysterically. I kissed her little frozen face and cried, ‘My baby, my little angel.’ I found out later that she was the youngest victim at only three years old,” she cries softly on stage. She took a moment to compose herself, there was not one dry eye in that place. I look around to see even tough guy Eric Godard from the Calgary Flames was sniffling.

I immediately saw her face again, the memories rushing back to me like the avalanche had rushed down the mountain. Tears were now falling freely and with out meaning to a sob tore free. Sid immediately has his arms around me his lips in my hair murmuring comforting things as Bran presses himself against my leg. I manage to regain my composure just as she as she began to speak of how she looked outside.

“I looked outside the tent, the tears pouring down my face. I spotted a young woman, in a red parka and a green hat with three dogs next to her. She looked absolutely exaughsted, her shoulders were slumped and she was talking to some guy about something. For some reason I couldn’t tear my eyes off of her. I don’t remember much about two of her dogs, but I remember the one. He looked like a wolf all black with eerily blue eyes,” she says as if struggling to remember.

Suddenly, I swear every one involved with the Penguins looks over to me in the corner. I’m still leaning on Sid, tears sliding down my cheeks, my free hand petting Bran. I look back to the speaker.

“ She looked into the tent and right at me. She stared at me a moment, with the tears flooding down my face as the man continued to talk with her. A tear spilled down her cheek as she nodded, breaking eye contact with me and looking away. That’s when I knew that she had found Hannah. The man walked away and she glanced back at me with a sigh before calling her dogs and walking away.”

Sid’s hands moved up and down my back, trying to comfort me.

“I lost my whole reason for existence that day, or at least so I thought. After spending the following weeks in bed, something clicked in me and told me that I needed to stop. I thought back to the woman in the red coat and her three dogs. She has inspired me to become a rescuer myself and I’m currently in training. I’m sorry if I messed anyone’s makeup, but I had to explain what this organization has done for me. It has offered me a sense of peace, by finding my loved ones. I didn’t have to leave them there, buried in the snow because of these people and dogs. I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she finishes managing a watery smile.

Everyone clapped, as she walked off stage to go sit with what I assumed was her mom and dad, who were patting her back.

“Thank you, Kerry. Now we will take a short break before we start the recognition ceremony, giving everyone a chance to fix their make up,” the announcer says.

I sigh into Sid’s shoulder looking up at him.

“You ok?” he asks, wiping tears off my cheeks.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just going to go to the restroom to wipe the make up off my face, will you keep an eye on Bran?” I say in a shaky voice.

“Yes of course,” he smiles giving me a hug, “I love you.”

“Love you too,” I smile at him as he kisses my cheek.

I walk away into the bathroom, which is flooded by other ladies trying to redue their make up. I sigh as I come across a free sink and mirror. I look at my reflection, even though they used water proof makeup on me, it only did so much. There were still black streaks down my cheeks, which were sticky with dried tears. I sighed and blew my nose.

The only thing I could do was take all of this make up off. I took some soap from the dispenser and washed my face in the sink. I dried off and looked at my sparkling clean face. The night had struck 12 for me, it had begun to lose it’s magic after that story. The little girl’s face was in my mind again. I pulled out some simple makeup I had stashed in Bran’s orange vest rescue dog vest that I had take off at dinner. I put on a light foundation/ lotion mix, some blush, and some mascara. My everyday look at the red carpet, oh well. I just didn’t have the energy to do more. I was completely drained. That was the thing about crying; it just took everything out of me.

After I had freshened up, I walk back to the table and sit down. All eyes were on me, but no one spoke.

“Caitlin, we had no idea that’s what happened,” Colby whispers breaking the silence. He hasn’t used my real name since before he gave me the nickname. All I can do is nod in reply.
“Not to pry, but…” Sara hesitates, “Did you really find that girl?”

I take a shaky breath in and look up at their faces, concern written on each one.

“Yeah, Bran found her.” I whisper looking down as Bran puts his head on my lap, allowing me to pet him. Sid taking one of my hands in his, and squeezing it gently.

“Alright ladies and gentlemen if I could have your attention please. We would like to recognize some people for their efforts and work in SAR,” the fat man speaks from his podium.

Some awards went to rescuers who had died, some went to those living, some went to dogs.

“Finally, we have decided to present an award to the rescue team who found the most people in the Newfoundland Avalanche. Miss Donaldson will present the award.”

Kerry came on stage with a smile and read off a small card.

“The person I’m about to name found the most victims of any rescue team, at a staggering 14. She and her 3-dog team have also demonstrated what the definition of a true rescuer is in the SAR’s eyes at only 24. If Caitlin Shaw, could please come up,” she smiles into the audience.

I sigh and get up. Sid hugs me and whispers in my ear, “I’m proud of you, my little warrior.”
I smile at him and call Bran up with me.
“Come on Bran, this is just as much your as it is mine,” I smile, as a spot light shines on me.

I approach the stage and walk up the steps. Kerry watches me and spots Bran, her eyes widen in surprise and her mouth hangs open, as she hands me the crystal plaque. I smile at her as her hands come to her mouth and tears fall down her cheeks.

“Wow. Umm… thank you for this; it’s really quite an honor. If you haven’t figured out already by Ms. Donaldson’s reaction, I was the one who found Hannah; actually it was Bran who found Hannah. Umm… I won’t waste your time with a big long speak so, I guess I would like to just thank everyone who has been there to support me, especially after the avalanche, just because it took such a toll on me both emotionally and physically. But most importantly I want to thank my pack of dogs, for being there for me always. And Bran, Hawkeye, and Flash because without them, you wouldn’t see me standing up here today. Thank you,” I finish with a smile stepping out of the hot spotlight.

I step away and Kerry pulls me into a hug and begins to cry on my shoulder.

“Thank you, thank you so much for finding my little Hannah,” She whispers.

I feel a tear slip down my cheek as she pulls away and pets Bran. She looks at me and I nod, saying that it’s ok. She bends down and puts her arms around him, her face in his furry shoulder. He sits there patiently and knowingly.Before she pulls away I hear her whisper, a Thank you to him.

January 06, 2009 at Tuesday, January 06, 2009

7 Comments to "Chapter 45: Flashback" had me choked up ovr here. that was insane

Oh wow...I definitely cried through a lot of that

very sad, but very well written...

Oh my god, that was such an emotional chapter. I cried through most, if not all of it. Even though it contained a ton of emotions and made me cry, it was, in my opinion your best chapter.


I cried through most of that. Your a great writer and this story is amazing.
Good luck with your exams!

Aww, I cried through most of that chapter.
Very well written

loved the emotion of this chapter, sad, but so good, and God love that Bran! What an awesome dog!

That chapter was amazing and I mean that in the most polite way possible - it was so well written, I was very moved by it and felt often throughtout it that I could cry. Well done girl.

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Discovering...Love? by AS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.