Questions that bog my mind

Here are the questions I’m running into, both in my mind and on other blogs . . .

  1. Would a GPS have saved James Kim’s life?
  2. Is the map they got from Google to blame?
  3. Did the Kim’s do things wrong?
  4. Should backroads like this be closed in bad weather?
  5. What if this was my family? What would I do?
  6. Was it preventable?
  7. Can we call James Kim a hero?

It’s a story that has been tracked by millions worldwide. A tragedy. People around the world have been riveted to local and cable newstations, internet news sites and other sites, like CNet where James Kim was a Senior Editor, anxiously awaiting news of his rescue. After his wife, Kati and their two children, 4 year old Penelope and 7 month old Sabine, were found safe Monday afternoon, the hope of the world renewed.

But the world was turned on it’s ear yesterday afternoon, when just after noon Pacific time, Kim’s lifeless body was discovered in the Big Windy Creek drainage. According to police reports, he had travelled about 10 miles from the family’s car where Kati and the children sat waiting, worried and anxious. From what authorities can tell, Kim was likely trying to get to the town of Galice, a few more miles down the Rogue River from where he was found.

Like many others, I’ve been glued to various stations and websites awaiting any new developments since day one. And I’m not really sure what has drawn me into this story so deeply. Perhaps it’s because I’m a parent of 4 children myself. Maybe it’s because I’ve also lost people close to me in horrible situations. Or because I’m just a sap. Whatever the reason, this story has pulled my heartstrings and I can’t get it out of my head.

The only thing left now are the questions. Let’s look at them one by one.

Would a GPS have saved James Kim’s life?

I don’t think so. The problem isn’t that he got lost as a result of a bad map or wrong directions – he missed a turn from one highway to another and made the choice – based on a map – to take a different road. That road was Bear Camp Road, a seldom used backroad that winds through forest service areas. This particular area is very remote and doesn’t get much travel during the bad winter months though it is more passible during summer months. A GPS system may have shown this a viable alternate route – just as the physical map they were using did.

Is the map they got from Google to blame?

Again, I don’t think so. The job of a map is not necessarily to show the reader what roads are viable, but what roads exist. Maps are supposed to give an indicator on how to get from one point to another. Many even have disclaimers about road conditions, construction and other sorts of obstructions that may or may not be occurring at any given time.

Did the Kim’s do things wrong?

Some may argue that James Kim put his family at risk, that the actions he and his wife took when they became lost, were stupid and risky. But I have to argue with that. I think they did everything they could to keep themselves and their children safe. Should they have just turned around when they became lost? I don’t think anyone can answer that. I certainly can’t answer that. Who’s to say if they had turned around that they would have made it back? It’s possible they could have become even more lost than they already were or slid off the road and become not only stuck, but had an accident that hurt – or killed – all of them.

No, I think they did what any survival training would tell you to do – stay put. When you’re lost and in doubt, don’t move. It’s what you tell your children when they get lost in the store. Stay where you are and mommy will come find you.

Should backroads like this be closed in bad weather?

Absolutely! Without a doubt, roads like this should be closed during winter months when they become significantly dangerous and impossible to navigate. There should be barricades closing them to everyone except rangers and other authorities or locals (although, I don’t think anyone lives down these particular roads).

Here in Washington, we have many such roads and a lot of them are closed from late fall to early spring. Some are open to only rangers and authorities, some also allow locals (if there are homes there) although many that do allow some people through, require that those people are in four wheel drive vehicles or have tire chains.

What if this was my family? What would I do?

There is no definitive answer to this. Sure, I can speculate what I might do but you know, you never really know exactly what you would do until you face that particular situation yourself. This could happen to anyone – even the most savvy outdoorsman (or woman!) on the planet.

I know I am prepared as much as I can be. I have flares, extra water, blankets, change of clothing, jumper cables, flash lights, and various other “survival gear” loaded in the back of my car. That stuff stays there 24/7/365.

Was it preventable?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask. But I’m not going to speculate. Maybe they could have done things differently – hindsight is 20/20 – as the saying goes. None of it will bring James back. None of it will change what did happen. None of it will heal the pain the family and friends of these wonderful, courageous people are experiencing now. Living in the past does nobody any good. Least of all, James and Kati Kim and their daughters.

We could wrack our brains for all eternity but there will never be an answer to this question.

Is James Kim a hero?

Yes! Without a doubt! He did everything he could – even giving up his own life – for his family. He kept a level head, he used every tool at his disposal and he saved his wife and children.

But James isn’t the only hero in this story. Kati is as much a hero as James. She breatfed both of her daughters and kept them alive. If that isn’t heroism, I don’t know what is!

And of course, there are all the rescuers and authorties who never tired in their search. All heroes.

Thank you!

I know there are more questions but I hope I’ve touched on those that are foremost on others minds. And I hope I’ve made some sense here.


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About Annie S. Anderson

Hi, I'm Annie - coach + visionary + storyteller + founder of One Generation Peace Project. Mom of 4, living in the great Pacific Northwest near Seattle. I love books, music, reading, computers, writing, old VW's, cats, the ocean and coffee.
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8 Responses to Questions that bog my mind

  1. dbrekke says:

    1. Would a GPS have saved James Kim’s life?
    2. Is the map they got from Google to blame?
    3. Did the Kim’s do things wrong?
    4. Should backroads like this be closed in bad weather?
    5. What if this was my family? What would I do?
    6. Was it preventable?
    7. Can we call James Kim a hero?

    My two cents, not that anyone asked.
    1. I agree: No. But a GPS equiipped with an excellent map of the area in which James Kim and family were lost might have helped him make better decisions about what to do *after* they were stranded.
    2. They didn’t get a map from Google or any other online source. The police, relaying an account from Kati Kim, said this pretty definitively on Wednesday.
    3. Yes. Even attempting to drive that Forest Service road was a huge mistake; once they did that–passing and ignoring three signs warning of possibly impassable conditions (again, police quoting K. Kiim), everything else that came was nearly inevitable. When you add in the fact they were traveling with two young children, their actions go from foolish to reckless.
    4. I agree. Apparently, the road is kept open for locals with skimobiles, etc., who actually know what they’re getting into. But given the fact so many people have become stranded on that road–the Oregonian did a story on it the other day–they should probably make it tougher to get up there.
    5. I agree that it’s hard to say. I would hope that confronted with the conditions at the bottom of the road–it was dark, getting late, they were a little low on gas and in the middle of a storm on a road they had no experience with–that I’d do what common sense dictated and either find a better route or just find a motel for the night. I say this having some experience traveling in the back country. As I said before, once you go driving into the wilderness in those conditions, you’ve dealt yourself a very tough hand.
    6. Yes. But you have to stop and think.
    7. What both parents did once they had driven into mortal danger could be described as heroic. But I have to ask: How many people give Ma and Pa Donner for being heroic (this is the 160th anniversary of their ordeal)? After all, they did essentially the same thing: Try to cross the mountains using an untried route with bad weather closing in. The results were tragic. But they sacrificed themselves, and their children survived to be rescued in the spring.

    Thanks for letting me vent!

  2. Annie says:

    Thanks for your comment! And for keeping it civil even though you didn’t agree with everything I wrote. 😉 I do appreciate that.

    Thanks also for clarifying the map comment. I heard that afterwards, however, I am not going to amend my post. I think your note will suffice.

    Stop by anytime and leave a comment! They’re always welcome as long as it’s family-friendly.

  3. brandon says:

    Great post Annie. The important thing to remember about this type of tragedy is that it will always be viewed with 20/20 vision. We can speculate all we want about what they should have done, or what could have been done differently. But when it really comes down to it, none of us know what we would do in a situation like this.

  4. Annie says:

    Thanks for posting Brandon! I totally agree.

    And thanks for the compliment, too. I appreciate your kind words.

  5. Adventure Watch says:

    @Brandon:
    I think it’s misleading to say that none of us would know what to do. Because the fact is, many people do know what they would do because they’ve thought about it before getting into that situation.

    I agree it’s easier to make decisions in hindsight, but that doesn’t make us incapable of making good decisions when the moment counts. The Kims couldn’t have been totally blindsided by their mistakes, but probably missed a number of small indicators that would have alerted them to the impending danger had they paid attention.

    It’s not unreasonable to ask that people stop and think about the consequences, e.g. what will I do if the road goes nowhere? What happens if we break down? At each stage, you need to asess the potential outcomes and if you find you aren’t prepared to handle them, then you choose not to continue.

    We would all find the Kim’s position difficult or impossible, but many are quite capable of avoinding such predicaments in the first place.

    And please don’t equate pointing out mistakes as bashing. Since when did it become a negative thing to admit (or point out) error?

  6. Annie says:

    Adventure Watch,

    Thanks for posting! I appreciate your viewpoints.

    Allow me to clarify one point –

    I in no way meant that *nobody* would know what to do. The point was that if one was in the EXACT same situation – with all the details the same – being unprepared, running out of gas, not enough supplies, etc – that it’s hard to speculate what actions we’d take – without having been there ourselves.

    I hope this story causes folks who travel in similar conditions to think twice and make sure they DO have adequate supplies. I know we do. Even in good weather conditions, my vehicle is equipped with extra water, flares, a small folding shovel, matches, blankets, flashlights, extra batteries and other such items.

    Again, thanks for posting!

  7. Adventure Watch says:

    I agree, given situation X, it’s tough to say exactly how we would react. I just think it’s useful to look at all the places where warning flags should have been raised before the Kims became stranded and to think how each of us would have reacted then, and to make suggestions as to how we ought to react. Even if they’d been prepared, prevention is a better solution.

    I am also interested in the issue of heroics. I think it probably comes down to one’s opinion, so i don’t think we should spend a lot of time talking about the heroics of the Kims, but i am curious to hear what criteria people use to judge the heroism of something. It’s a fascinating question, though one I think ought to be discussed outside of the realm of this particular incident.

  8. Annie says:

    Have you read my post called “Heroes Come in Many Forms?” Though it does mention my thoughts within the topic of the Kim story, I give some thoughts to what makes a hero.

    I agree – it’s an interesting topic. Perhaps in the coming weeks, we should take it up more in depth.

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