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Dane Peacock

Runny, Runny, Runny, Jump!

I heard screams and turned just in time to see his little feet disappear backwards over the edge of the cliff.

Life is punctuated with intense moments. Unforeseen events can consume our lives for a few brief, terrifying seconds. Just as quickly, those moments can end. In an instant, life can be changed forever.

We were returning from a vacation in Las Vegas with Yvette's parents. Kira was eight years old, Amberly six, and Skyler three. We stopped on the way home to hike up a trail in Zion's Canyon.

It was a nice day and we climbed leisurely. Skyler meandered all over the trail. Several times we had to remind him to watch where he was going. He was a cute little thing at that age. As always, he wore his glasses and his blue cap. He would not go anywhere without them.

The trail was cut into the canyon wall. To the left, the canyon climbed above us; to the right, the canyon dropped away in a steep incline for several yards before ending in a sheer cliff that fell away to the bottom of the canyon.

Inexplicably, along the edge of the trail they had built a small brick barrier about twelve inches tall. Early on, I had commented about the idiocy of making such a short barrier. It needed to be much higher, or it needed to be removed completely. Instead, they made it the perfect height for people to trip over. Stupid.

I was looking up the trail when I heard screams all around me. They came from a group of ladies behind us, as well as Yvette, her Mom, and Kira. I turned quickly enough to see Skyler's feet disappear off the edge of the trail. He had backed into the brick barrier and toppled over it.

I ran to the edge and leaped after him. I saw him tumbling down the steep incline in a series of backwards somersaults. I landed with my feet sideways and jumped again. I was worried that he might get seriously hurt before I got to him. I landed and jumped again. He was tumbling down the steep slope rapidly. At that moment I realized that I was losing him. He was descending much faster than I.

I was more scared than I have ever been in my life. With anguish, I knew that I was about to watch my son tumble to his death. It was too much to bear. I pushed off wildly. When I lit, I took a couple of running steps down the slope and jumped again.

As a kid at Lehman Caves, I would often run down a steep hill at the visitor center. My legs would always get going too fast. I remember that feeling of losing my balance just before I fell. I had that same feeling with me as I ran and jumped down the slope. Each time that I leapt into the air, I was sure that the next time I landed I would flip over. I had to land perfectly each time or I would be rolling after my son. I thought that I was going to lose him. I would have traded my life to save his at that moment without hesitation, but I couldn't. To save him, I had to stay on my feet and move faster. Tears were in my eyes and I was praying feverishly.

I could see that I was starting to gain on him, but my speed was out of control. I tried to judge if I could reach him before he reached the cliff edge, but it was too close to call. That got me going even faster. I have never felt a stronger sense of heightened physical performance in all my life.

As Skyler neared the edge of the cliff, he tumbled through the branches of a dead tree. It slowed him down and I was on him instantly. I grabbed him and we slid for several feet before coming to a stop. His blue cap continued rolling and we watched it disappear over the edge of the cliff.

Irrationally, the first thing I felt was an absurd guilt for losing his beloved hat, and I futilely tried to think of a way to get it back. I still could not let myself believe that it was only the hat that had gone over the cliff. The reality that I was actually holding him in my arms finally sank in, and only then did relief sweep over me.

I feared that Skyler was badly hurt, but I had him. That was all that mattered. I secured myself the best I could against the slope, and with apprehension, checked him for the injuries that I did not want to find. The first thing that I noticed was that his glasses were still on. That was absolutely crazy. The next thing I noticed was that he was not crying. He must have been in a bit of shock. I looked him over. He had scratches everywhere, but I could not see any serious injuries. He told me, "I don't like it down here. It's better up there." I laughed in spite of everything.

I shouted up to the others, "I have him! He is okay!"

We were still in a precarious position on the steep incline. For a brief moment I thought of waiting there until someone came with ropes, but I was a bundle of nerves and anxiety. Waiting would have been unbearably tedious, and Skyler kept urging, "Let's go back. I don't like it down here."

The climb up was slow and very shaky, but I had him in my arms. He was not going anywhere. The terrifying feeling of not being able to reach him was gone. He was clutching me as tightly as possible. I did not have to tell him to hold on. He did not cry or show much emotion, but his steel grip around my neck said it all. I was able to use both hands most of the climb back up and only had to adjust him from time to time so that I could breathe.

When we reached the trail, I was exhausted. Skyler was also. He had bruises and several cuts and scratches all over his body, but none of them deep enough to require stitches. We bandaged him up and went on our way. Later that afternoon we stopped at Bryce Canyon and Skyler was out running around the trails again. The moment that had been so intense for those few agonizing seconds earlier that day, had come and gone as if it had never happened.

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