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He Knew My Name!

by Cordell Vail

Copyright 1996 by Cordell Vail


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The events of 8 Sept, 1984 started as most any other day. It was a Saturday. We owned a small home in Bennion, Utah. It had an unfinished basement. They had been remodeling the offices where I worked, and they were throwing out a lot of 2 x 4's that I thought I could use to make walls for my unfinished basement. My boss said I could have the wood, and could even use the old orange company truck to haul it away. So after breakfast I borrowed the old orange truck from work and decided to haul the lumber home. I took my sons Gene, age 15, Nathan, age 10, David, age 7, and Aaron, age 6, with me. How little did we realize as we started out hauling the wood that day that it would become one of the most important and memorable days of our lives.

We had made several trips by lunch time. It was about a six mile drive each way to haul a load. We just had one more load to haul, but we decided to stop and eat lunch first before we finished. I was anxious to get the last of the wood home, so I could get started building the walls before the afternoon was all gone.

After we ate lunch, I loaded the boys back in the truck to make the one last trip for the wood. The old orange truck was sort of rickety. It ran well enough to do jobs like this, but sometimes I had to nurse it along to keep it from quitting. Each time we went for the wood we took the same route. It was quite an easy shot from our house up 2700 west to I­215 to 21st south and right to the office. But this trip became a trip like no other that we had taken.

When we came to the stop light which is at 5400 south on 2700 west, we were the first car to miss the traffic light. Missing the light really frustrated me because I hate missing red lights. They waste so much or your time. As we waited for the traffic light to turn green again, I was very irritated because it was taking so long. We were expecting that when the traffic light changed, we would go straight ahead continuing along 2700 west just like we had on every other trip. We waited and waited, but the traffic light did not change to green. The traffic started to back up on both sides of the intersection. That is one of the busiest intersections in Salt Lake City. Finally some of the cars on the other side of the intersection opposite to us, started to run the light. When the oncoming traffic permitted, they would dart across. But I did not dare try it because the cars were comming so fast down the hill into the intersection. Quite often the truck stalled when we first started out. The guy behind me started honking, trying to get me to run the traffic light and go on through. But I was afraid the truck would stall in the intersection and we would be hit. So I decided to turn right. I knew that I could go east to 2200 west then left over to get on I­215 and still get where we were going.

I turned the truck right and started around the corner. As we picked up speed going around the corner, the door of the truck on my side flew open and I started to fall right out of the door onto the street. I held on to the steering wheel and used it to pull myself back up into the truck, but that swerved the truck off the road to the right straight toward a big power pole. I missed hitting the pole, but I honestly do not know how. We were going right for it. When I got back up into the truck and turned the truck back on to the road, I was amazed that I had been able to control the truck and not hit the pole. I felt a great sense of relief and gratitude that we had not been in an accident and felt we surely had been protected that day.

When we got to the traffic light on 2200 west, we again just barely missed the light. This was the traffic light where we were to turn left to go up on to the freeway. Again I remember feeling that I never have had much luck with red lights, and missed it again. Impatient to get going, I was thinking over and over in my mind what I would do with the wood and how I would build the walls. As we waited for the light to change a very strong impression came into my mind that I should go straight rather than to turn left when the traffic light did change. I was quite amazed at the impression and argued in my mind that I could not get where we needed to go if I went straight. I had been down that road many times and knew it did not go clear through. But the impression persisted and was very clear and distinct, that I should not turn but go straight ahead. I figured out in my mind a way that I could weave up through the subdivisions and finally get where we were going. When the traffic light changed, I followed my impression and went straight ahead instead of turning left and going up onto the freeway.

The road was quite familiar to me. I knew that past the 7­11 store on the corner was an old barn that always had hay for sale. There was a large ditch running along beside the road which went past the old barn and then into a culvert under a driveway. As we approached the old barn I noticed a man running along the ditch back toward the 7­11 store. The speed at which he was running was unusual, almost alarming. I knew something must be wrong for someone that old to be running that fast up a ditch bank. I also noticed that there were five or six other people standing on the driveway and several others were darting across the street in front of me going towards that driveway. It was a big flat cement bridge type drive covering the ditch. There was a man down in the ditch in the water clear up to his shoulders. He had what looked like a long 2 X 4 and I could see that he was poking it into the culvert under the driveway. All those standing around were watching him intently.

I also noticed that there were two or three women standing up the driveway towards the house and one woman was sitting down like she had fallen down to a sitting position with her legs sprawling. I could tell that she was crying hysterically. It was then that I really realized that something was wrong. I surmised from her hysteria and the man down in the ditch with the board that a child must have fallen into the ditch and was swept into the culvert. My natural reaction was to stop and help. But I had just been told a few weeks before by a friend who is on the Highway Patrol that you should never stop at an accident. He said you normally cause more problems than you help. I decided to just go on and let the authorities take care of the problem.

We had to proceed very slowly past the scene of the accident because there were people coming out of their houses from everywhere. They were just darting across the road in front of me almost without looking. So our slow speed made it seem almost like everything was moving in slow motion. There were men running up and down the ditch in both directions. I assumed they were looking for the child in the water. I wanted so bad to stop and help but I decided that there were already enough people there we would just be in the way. I proceeded on down the road.

A hundred thoughts started to run through my mind from my past. I remembered what I had felt like one time when my own daughter Leah was a baby. We were at a friend's home having a party in his back yard, with some other college students. We were just standing on the back lawn visiting and one of the students came up to me and handed me my two year old soaking wet baby. She said she had found Leah floating face down in the ditch at the back of the yard. I did not even know there was a ditch in the yard. I was just sick to think what might have happened if she had not found her. With that memory surging through my mind, I could imagine how that mother on the driveway must have felt. I said a little prayer and asked the Lord if He would send someone to save her baby like He had saved mine.

I also remembered a time when we first started going to the Sports Haven Health Club to let the kids swim. Aaron was just a little guy, about two, just able to walk. Our whole family was in the pool area and most of them were in the hot tub. I was talking to an old friend with my back to the pool and hot tub. I had a strong impression to turn around and talk. As I talked, facing the hot tub and pool, I saw Aaron fall into the pool, but no one over there was watching. He just laid there face down in the water and did not move. I ran as fast as I could around the pool and swooped him up out of the water. When his head came up out of the water, he took a big gasp of air and started to cry. I cried as long as he did just to think how close he came to drowning. Again, with gratitude in my heart for the impressions that had saved the life of my little boy, I said a prayer for that mother on the driveway and asked the Lord if He would help them someway save the baby as He had helped me save Aaron.

We continued on down the road away from the scene of the accident. As I rode along in the old truck, looking over at my own kids, I was crying. I kept thinking a baby was dying and I couldn't do anything to help. I kept thinking about Aaron and Leah and all the other many, many times our children had been spared. I kept praying that the Lord would send someone to help those parents like He had helped us so many times when our children had been spared. My eyes were filled with tears. I could hardly see the road.

Well, hundreds of thoughts can go through your mind in just a few seconds when you are in a situation like that. I thought of the time when our oldest son Gene was just two or three and he had slipped out of the house during Sunday dinner and had walked down the middle of the busy main street in town. I remembered how a stranger had brought him to our door and asked if he was our boy. He said he found him two and one half blocks away. Our family knew every person in town and no one sitting at the dinner table knew this man. How did he know where we lived? My wife Janice took Gene from him and was so shocked he had gotten away from us she did not think to ask who he was. Then she turned back to call to him and he was gone. We have always felt that it was the Lord's intervention that saved Gene's life. Again as that thought went through my mind I asked the Lord if he could send someone like that to help save the baby.

The memory came into my mind of the time when our daughter Anna first learned to ride her bike and she went over the curb across the lawn and right into the basement of a split level house. No one saw her do it. The lady who owned the house said she did not see what happened, she had just heard the glass break and when she came out our Anna was standing in front of the window crying. Anna's bike had gone right through the window and down inside the house. Anna did not know how she got off the bike. When it went through the window, she just ended up standing in the flower bed in front of the window. We were so grateful for the unseen hand that protected her.

On and on my mind went, remembering all the times that we had been protected. I am sure the whole thought process was not more than one or two minutes. I just know I was very sad as I kept looking over at my own children sitting in the seat beside me and knowing how sad I would be if it was one of them that was in the ditch.

We drove on down the road about one more block. Then I heard a voice that came into my mind and said, "Cordell, look over here in this open field". It was very clear in my mind. I looked. Then the voice said, "See those fence poles leaning against that fence?" I said, "Yes". Then continuing, the voice said, "See that old carpet over that old pile of machinery?" I said, "Yes". Then I heard the words in my mind, "Remember when you were young and you used to help your dad water the hay, and do you remember how you put the canvas with a pole in the top of it, across the ditch and it would block the water off and make it all run out into the hay field instead of on down the ditch?" I said, "Yes, I remember." Then I heard the voice clearly say, "Cordell, if you will take those poles and that carpet, you can build a dam like that and save the baby's life."

Just as those impressions came into my mind, the entrance into the big open field where the carpet was came up on the road. I swerved into the open dirt field and cut a big U-turn in front of the machinery and backed up to it.

I told the little boys to stay in the truck. Gene and Nathan jumped out with me and we started loading the carpet and poles into the back of the empty truck. Aaron and David did not stay in the truck as I had asked them, but they were not in the way.

Just as we finished loading the poles and carpet I heard the siren of what I assumed to be the ambulance. I then thought to myself that there was no need to go now because the paramedics would save the baby. But immediately as I thought that, the strong impression came into my mind that they could not save the baby and that I was to go back anyway.

In a panic I told the boys to get back in the truck. But the two little guys were having a hard time climbing up into the seat. Aaron had gotten in but David was still struggling to get in so I picked him up and in my haste literally threw him in the open truck door onto the seat. But I threw him too high and he hit his head on the top of the door opening. It cracked very hard. I was so sad that I had done that. I had been in such a rush to go back and help save the baby that I had now hurt my own boy. I was sure that he would have a bad cut and maybe even a concussion. He hit very hard. I said in my mind to the Lord, "I am sorry but I have hurt David now so I can't go. He is more important to me than the baby. I will have to take him to the doctor and get help for him. He was screaming in pain. Again the impression came into my mind that he was okay and that we were to go back to save the baby. We all piled in the truck and off we went.

Speeding out of the field, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw what appeared to be the farmer who owned the field chasing after us. I suppose he thought we were stealing his carpet and fence posts. He was running and shaking his fists in the air at us. But I did not feel we could take time to stop and explain to him what we were doing so we just sped on out of the field and back up onto the road.

When I turned the truck onto the road going back towards the scene of the accident, I could see that there was now a police car about one half block from where the driveway was. He had pulled his car across the road angle wise and set up a road block. He was out in front of his car holding his hand up and had stopped about 5 cars. He would not let them go by. I said a little prayer and asked the Lord what to do. The impression came to just go around him. I turned into the wrong side of the street and started up past all the cars. I was sure he would stop us and make me explain why I was trying to go past his road block. As we approached him, he did not even turn to look at us. He just continued to look at the cars he had stopped. It was as if he could not see us. So I just sped right past him and drove on up the road to where the driveway and culvert were.

There were now scores of people standing all around on the ditch bank. The man with the 2 X 4 was still down in the ditch poking the board up under the culvert. There was now also a paramedic sitting down in the water beside him. The water was too deep to see the opening of the culvert but the man was poking the board in and out of what appeared to be the opening. The mother of the child was still over on the driveway crying and lots of people were trying to console her.

I told David and Aaron to stay in the truck this time. By now David had quit crying because of all the police cars and ambulances and excitement. Gene and Nathan jumped out of the truck to help me. We dragged the carpet and poles over across the street and built our carpet dam. I asked Gene to stand down in the water on the carpet and hold the carpet onto the poles because we did not have time to put dirt around it to hold it in place. He did as I asked.

I paid no attention to Nathan or where he went. I just turned and went up to the culvert opening to see what we could do to help. As the water flooded out of the ditch in front of our dam, the water level at the culvert immediately started to drop. As soon as it was down where you could see into the opening, the man with the 2 X 4 looked in and started to cry hysterically and shout over and over "She is in there, she is in there". He was so hysterical two policemen took him by the arms and lifted him up out of the ditch and they disappeared behind the crowd standing all around the ditch bank. I learned later that he was the father of the baby.

I looked at the paramedic who was standing there in the water with me and he just moved aside. I was just amazed that he would move over and let me look in. As I sat down into the water so I could get a look into the culvert, I had to get down to where my face was almost in the water to look in the little light opening at the top of the culvert. I too could see a little bump up inside the culvert that looked like cloth in the water.

The opening was only about the size of a football and I could not tell how big the culvert opening was under the water. It did not look like it was big enough for a man to go in or I would have gone in after the baby myself. Then the impression came into my mind that I could send my ten year old son Nathan in. He was small enough to fit.

I looked around but I could not see him anywhere. He told me later that he did not know why we were there and he was having great fun looking at all the shiny guns on the policemen and was jumping back and forth across the ditch. But when I called out to him, he immediately jumped down into the water beside me.

I put my face down by the opening of the culvert and Nathan got down and looked in too, without my even having to ask him. I asked him if he could see the little bump up there in the light. He said that he could. Then I told him it was the baby and asked him if he would dare crawl into the culvert and see if he could get hold of the baby and bring it back out. With no hesitation he went right into the culvert. The opening in the water was so small that his head completely blocked off all the light and I could not see him or the light any more, just water.

Nathan only went in about a foot then he scrambled back out. He was crying and fell into my arms. He was trembling and he said that he was too scared to go in. So I got down in the water right up to the opening again and motioned for him to come look again. I said to him, "Nathan, that little bump in there is a baby. If you don't go in to get her she will die." Before I could say any more he lurched back into the opening and disappeared into the water.

I was very afraid to have him go in where I could not see him. I could not even see his head for the water, so I grabbed hold of his ankles to pull him back out if he got too far into the culvert and could not come back out alone. The paramedic also grabbed hold of him to help me. We let him go in, and in, and in, to what seemed like a mile. I was almost to the end of my reach on his ankles when he stopped. Then I heard his little voice cry out, "I got the baby, dad".

I panicked and just started pulling him out by his ankles and legs, then his hips, then finally his chest and shoulders. When his head came out of the culvert, I could see that his face had been thrust down into the water the whole time we were pulling him out, by the force of our pulling him back out so fast. I was sure we had also drowned him. I quickly put my hand under his chest and lifted him up out of the water. When his face cleared the water he took a big gasp for air. Then one of the most glorious sights I have ever beheld appeared. As he stood up and his arms came up out of the water and I could see his hand, it was filled with beautiful blond hair. He was holding the baby by her hair. I quickly grabbed the baby and turned her upside down so the water would start running out of her lungs. She was just as blue as blue could be.

I handed the baby, upside down, to the paramedic who was standing beside me. Everyone on the ditch bank started to cheer and clap their hands. I just held Nathan in my arms and we cried together for joy. The baby had been saved. I was also very grateful that Nathan had not drowned as well.

The crowed followed the paramedics over by the ambulance to watch as they tried to revive her. We went over to watch, too. I kept hearing the one paramedic say, "No pulse, no pulse, no pulse." The other one was giving the baby mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

I stood there and watched. I was so disappointed. She was dead. It was all for nothing. I kept asking the Lord over and over, "Why? Why? Why? Why did you send us all this way, and now she is dead? Why did you break the traffic light so we would come this way and now she is dead anyway? Why did you tell me to go straight instead of turning up onto the freeway and now she is dead anyway?" I kept hearing the paramedic say, "No pulse, no pulse". The baby was so blue she almost did not look real contrasted against her beautiful blond hair. I continued to pray for her and asked the Lord, "Why did you show me how to make the dam, and now she is dead anyway?"

It was then that the same voice came back into my mind and said to me, "Give her a blessing and command her to live". I was shocked. I looked around. There were at least one hundred people now standing around. How could I give her a blessing? I did not know the family. What would all these people think if I raised my arm to the square and commanded her to live? But the voice in my mind cut me off and said to me, "You do not need to touch her or raise your arm to the square to give her a blessing, just say the words in your mind."

I followed my impression and in my mind I commanded her in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the priesthood I held, to live. The very second that I said those words, I heard the paramedic say, "I've got a pulse. I've got a pulse." I could see the pink color start to flow back into her face and in just a few seconds she was not blue anymore. They quickly put her and her mother into the ambulance and hurried away.

The crowd now started to disperse. My sons and I went over to gather up the poles and carpet. The carpet was very heavy now that it was wet. But we managed to drag it back across the street and get it and the poles into the truck. I was just amazed that Aaron and David were still in the truck. I had forgotten all about them. I was very relieved that they had obeyed me and had not gotten out of the truck.

We drove back to the field to return the carpet and when we pulled into the field, here came the farmer again running toward us. I guess he thought we had now come back to steal the machinery too. He was very angry and red faced when he piled over the white wooden fence and confronted me. But when I told him what we had done and when he saw the wet carpet he just laughed about his thinking we were stealing his things. He then helped us unload the wet carpet and put it back over the machinery.

I turned the truck back up onto the road and started toward the office to get the rest of the wood, but my life would never be the same again. As I drove along the road I was filled with amazement that the Lord would love a little girl and her family so much that he would make a traffic light quit working to send us on a different route. My heart was so filled with gratitude that the Lord had helped us know what to do to save the baby's life. But more than that, I was so humbled to think that the Lord knew my name and had sent me and my boys to be the ministering angels to save the life of the baby.

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