A guest post by Bill McPherson …
I recently experienced a horrendous fall off a cliff. I live on the side of a mountain which has a pitch of about 45 degrees (no exaggeration). A construction project 2 years ago included construction of a concrete retaining wall 12 feet from the house capped with a concrete patio (with a deck 20’ above). The drop from the patio to the ground is roughly six feet. You see it coming, don’t you? Don’t get ahead. Listen.
I am currently constructing a roof over the patio and I just brought in a pile of 2x8s and 15 sheets of ½” OSB board to put on the roof. The 750 pounds of OSB was leaning up against a 6×6 column about 5 feet from the edge of the precipice. I was trying to get a tarp over the OSB as rain was coming and that is where the tragedy begins.
I am sure that the initiation of the following events is when the angels got to work. They were already at the scene because my wife prayed that morning for God to send angels to protect me for the day. I was going to need them. I had to exert at least 100 pounds to pull the stack of OSB away from the column. A phenomenon occurred at that time that I had not previously encountered so it caught me off guard, and the impending danger it was bringing advanced upon me before I could react and avoid the catastrophe. An engineering explanation of the phenomena is at the end. I won’t bore the non-technical minds with the details here. Once the sheets were standing up, they mysteriously and suddenly expanded towards me. I immediately knew to get out of the way and let ’em go.
I could not move fast enough. I was already in the grasp of the falling sheets and could not escape. The next 0.7 seconds went by with lightning speed. The falling 750 pounds of wood hurled me from the precipice with no regard to my frailty. I do not remember a lot of the journey to the bottom. I must have blinked. I do remember the sound of a metal chair getting in the mix and being thrown down the hill. And I saw an upside-down view of the wild azalea tree go by so quickly and then the inevitable thud.
I see so clearly that God or his angels were guiding me. I was a guided missile in their hands, angle of attack and yaw being adjusted ever so slightly. An observer would never notice their skills. I went headfirst. There was a violent jolt in my body accompanied by strange sounds as my shoulder began to compress. I distinctly heard a bell. Probably the nerves in my neck and spine all joining in together to sing the Ouch song. I heard crunching glass (one lens from my glasses was missing), and for a nano-second I thought of passing out. But I did not.
I don’t know if this is common, but at this point I gave into a bit of fear and hysteria. I assumed I was in store for the worst. Multiple bones would be broken (including my back) and I would be bleeding profusely. So I began moaning loud enough for Susan to hear, not screaming because that would be overkill, because after all, I was alive and sitting up surveying my body.
One shoe was missing, one lens missing. My vision was all messed up because my glasses were sitting cockeyed at the end of my nose and one lens was gone. I was hurting. Susan came to the rescue and a measure of calm came to me.
I cleaned up, went to the hospital, sore as heck, but alive.
I am 70 years old. I was traveling at a speed of 19.65 feet per second at the end of my 0.7 second flight (sorry, I am an engineer you know). Imagine going from the goal line to the 7-yard line each second, and then ramming into an immovable wall. Yeah, thud. By all rights, I should have had broken bones, bones out of joint, possibly concussion. I escaped with sore. The ground was sloping away at 45 degrees to my advantage. I landed in a wet pile of ashes. My shoulder hit first. My head just bent out of the way. I kind of skidded to a stop. Good job angels.
All my bones were in place and unbroken. My flesh was not ripped open. I had a few little blood trickles which stopped almost immediately.
Yes, I was in the hands of a merciful God. He saw the OSB coming. He was with me going over the edge. He was viewing the wild azalea tree upside down with me on the way down. “Hang on Bill. This will hurt, but I will not leave you.” He spread out a cushion of soft wet ashes to ease the impact. He was with me every nano-second of the trip. I am sure the devil was gloating over my suffering, but God turned it into an opportunity to praise Him for His faithfulness. And this is what I do. I am in awe of His great love for me.
FOR THE ENGINEERS
I learned something about plywood through this experience. All sheet goods have some waviness. I stacked the 50-pound sheets in a vertical position leaning on a post at about an 80-degree angle. I used a Gator Grip to move the sheets into place and I scooted the bottoms tight together as I set each one into place. The horizontal component of the weight of the sheets (750*cos80°) seemed to be enough to compress the waviness out. I pulled the 15 sheets away from the post to get a tarp behind them. The bottoms of the sheets were still tight together like the binding of a book. In the upright position, the sheets lost their horizontal weight component and waviness took over to make the stack bloom out like a flower. Awesome.
Beware of large blooming petals, they will throw you off the deck.