Looking back on a day I'll never forget

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas-May 21 of this year marks an anniversary in my family's history that none of us will ever forget. On that date four years ago our world was turned upside down. Many people told us it would never be right again.

John Warren­Tree Specialist seemed such a natural name for our newly formed business, not quite two years old. The kids and I often kidded John about his choice of names, so similar in syntax to Ace Ventura­Pet Detective. We joked about it, but nothing could be more suitable for a man with nearly 25 years in the business of planting, pruning, removing and treating diseased trees.

I remember leaving for work with him that morning. We got quite a late start that day because of our having house guests from Oregon who had come down to Big Sandy to attend the 1997 graduation ceremony at Ambassador College, its very last.

Normal routine

When John and I loaded up in our one-ton, flatbed truck that morning after seeing our guests off, we could never have imagined what the day's end would bring. We arrived at the job site in Longview a little before noon and actually wondered out loud whether we should go down the street to the Dairy Queen for lunch before we got started. We decided to get the first tree on the ground before we went for lunch.

As was our normal routine, John suited up in all his safety equipment before climbing the tree to place his rope. He then tied the rope off to our flatbed truck to provide stability and guidance to the tree as it fell.

When all ropes were in place and I was stationed in a position to direct traffic, John took one last look at the scene to make sure everything was perfect. He saw one thing out of place, a rain gauge that belonged to the next-door neighbor. He didn't want it to be damaged by possible falling limbs or pine boughs, so he placed it inside the neighbor's mailbox.

I've often wondered what those people must have thought when they went out to check their mail and found their rain gauge inside their mailbox. You see, we never got the chance to place it back where it should've been.

Huge pine

When all was in order, John commenced to make his back-cut in the trunk of the tree and then began cutting for real. The tree itself was a huge pine, close to 40 inches in diameter at the base. It was green and healthy. The only reason for removal was its close proximity to the house.

The tree came down exactly as planned. Since it was such a large tree, and totally alive, all I could see after it hit the ground was a wall of green. I did notice after it hit that it bounced and rolled over a little, making a noise I thought was just a little different at the time.

Nevertheless, I stood at my post to ensure no passing vehicle would be endangered. When the tree fell, it didn't reach even into the street, and the neighbor's mailbox remained intact.

As I stood there waiting for further instruction from John, I heard him call, "Darlene, come here!" I rushed over to find him pinned under the tree, his legs grotesquely twisted beneath him, his hand still clutching the chain saw.

Worst summer

The rest is history, as they say. I will never forget that morning for as long as I live, the 911 call, instantaneous prayers, the paramedics and the ambulance ride. Neither will I forget the surgery, the news or the worst summer my family has ever spent.

We spent the first month in a hospital in Longview before transferring for the summer to a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.

While in Houston we received cards, calls, visitors and many prayers, I'm sure. When we came home we were overwhelmed by the kindnesses of so many people. Without our friends we would never have made it this far.

This writing is meant as a tribute to all who have done so much for us. Thank you for your prayers, your cards, the gifts we can never possibly repay. Thank you for the time you sacrifice to come spend an afternoon with us. Thanks for calling to check on us. Your kindness knows no congregational boundaries, and we will never forget you.

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