The Miller family was made up of Billy (6 years old), Bobby (4 years old), Grandma (nicknamed, Boo Boo), Sue (Mother), and Clifford (Father).
World War II had just ended in 1945 and there were a lot of ex-soldiers, still unemployed looking for a job. So, work was hard to find for a few years. The pay was low because of competition. Mr. Miller learned to become a truck mechanic during the war, which is almost the same as a bus, so he landed a great job. However, it required him to leave the city he grew up in and move to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, at his own expense.
It was a job that he was required to start right away. Since the Millers didn’t own a house, they packed up and moved in a few days. Mr. Miller had a plan to buy a trailer with what little money they had and live in a trailer park until they had saved enough money to buy a house. At the time these parks were very popular for several reasons, but the main one was the low cost.
After checking out the Pittsburg area mobile home parks’ they chose Camp Horne Trailer Park which was close to work for Mr. Miller. They even purchased a small trailer there, so they could move into their new tiny home right away.
Camp Horne was located in a hilly area and the park was in a small valley bowl-shaped indent on the side of a slight hill. The trailer park was filled with about 100 trailers of all sizes. The Camp Horne main office was located at the top of the hill, at the entrance.
The Miller tiny home was near Horne Creek which ran right behind their trailer. It was a small creek, only 3 or 4 feet wide and only ankle deep in most places. Billy and Bobby thought it was great because they could catch frogs and small crawfish. It was a woodsy area that didn’t permit a lot of sunshine to break through the dense forest of trees.
The family had been living here for almost one year. The boys had a lot of fun playing in and around the creek. They loved making mud pies and throwing them at each other. It was their favorite thing to do. Every day they would get so dirty that Mrs. Miller was always washing their mud-covered clothes. Grandma would watch the boys while Mother did the housework and laundry.
It was springtime, the rainy season in Pittsburg. It had been raining for the last two weeks so the creek had grown in size and was overflowing its banks. Mrs. Miller made the creek off-limits for the boys. So, the boys couldn’t make any mud pies or play by the creek until the water receded.
It was early in the morning when Grandma left to go grocery shopping, like she does every Friday. Mrs. Miller told the boys to stay inside while she quickly went to the main office to do a load of laundry. She told them she’d be right back. Sue put on her raincoat, grabbed the laundry basket, and took off running through the rain leaving the boys alone.
It started to thunder and rain began pouring down in buckets. The rain was so heavy, the boys couldn’t even see across the street as they watched for their mother to return. They wondered, why is she taking so long.
Billy kept looking out the window at the creek which now was growing in size very quickly. It was getting so high that Billy became worried because the water was deep and flowing very fast.
Billy opened the trailer door to look for his mother, but she wasn’t in sight. He shouted out as loud as he could. Bobby joined in and they screamed at the top of their little lungs. Their tiny voices couldn’t be heard over the pounding rain and thunder.
Now the boys were afraid to leave the trailer because the water was too deep. The water was quickly coming up to the first step. Billy told his little brother, “The water is getting deep. We can’t leave now.”
Bobby, while crying, said, “I want Mommy!”
“We have to wait here for Mommy.” Billy held his little brother’s hand and looked at all the water just outside the trailer door, just inches from coming inside.
Meanwhile, Sue who was busy doing laundry stopped to notice the heavy rainfall. It had been 45 minutes since leaving the trailer. She looked out the window once again and something told her this could become a serious situation. Sue hurried to finish the laundry so she could leave as soon as the rain let up a little.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO? (Make a choice below and then read further to find out what Mrs. Miller did.)
Stop and think very carefully about this situation. The boys are now in the Danger Zone and so is Mrs. Miller. Floodwaters, even if shallow, are strong forces of nature and can wash away cars, let alone two young children. You and your loved ones could be killed if you make the wrong decision. What are you going to do? Make a choice below.
a. Would you run out in the storm and through the dangerous floodwater to save your boys?
b. Would you use the office phone to call the fire department and the police?
c. Would you run to the next-door neighbor’s house for help?
d. Would you ask someone with a car to help recuse your boys?
e. Would call your husband and ask him what to do?
Choose wisely, as every second that ticks by could be the boys' last.
The story continues: “FROM MUD PIES TO THE DANGER ZONE”
Mrs. Miller was standing in the main office of the park, waiting for the heavy rain to let up, while listening to the radio. Then she heard that flood warnings were issued for their area, including Horne Creek. Sue walked outside and peered through the deluge trying to see what the creek was doing. To her surprise and great concern, she saw that the creek had become so large the water now completely covered the streets. Furthermore, it appeared that a wall of water was coming down the hill.
With no hesitation, Sue ran down the office steps and began to fight her way through the already knee-high swift current, which was trying to sweep her off her feet. She knew that falling could wash her downstream.
Mrs. Miller had to cover a distance of about 100 yards or the length of a football field. As she trudged along fighting the water Sue passed a neighbor woman hanging on to a telephone pole screaming for help. She couldn’t stop to help, as there was nothing she could do. Mrs. Miller now knew her little boys were in terrible danger.
Halfway there another woman went rapidly floating by, reaching out her hand for help. Again, Sue couldn’t do anything to help her, as she watched her neighbor Judy disappear under the swirling muddy water. Mrs. Miller thought, God please help us. She was getting tired, but just the thought of her boys drowning gave her the strength to keep going.
Tree branches were swiftly floating down the floodwaters. Sue knew if one hit her, knocking her down, it could be all over. Dodging tree branches she finally made it to her home. The water was deeper here almost up to her waist.
The boys saw their mother sloshing through the almost waist-high floodwaters in the pouring storm. They jumped for joy meeting her at the door. She was their hero. Mother would save them because she would know what to do.
Mommy climbed into the trailer finding that the water inside was deep enough to cover her ankles. Mrs. Miller was now worried that any minute the trailer could be swept away by the strong floodwaters with them inside. She had no choice but to make the trip back to safe dry ground. She looked out the door just as a huge trailer across the street began to float downstream. The floodwaters were sweeping it away.
Quickly picking up each boy, one in each arm, she told them to hold on tight and not to let go no matter what happened. Mrs. Miller was now holding 80 pounds of precious love in her arms. They were heavy, but she gave no thought to that as her adrenaline was flowing providing her added strength. A strength that Miller never knew she had, as she entered the water for the return trip.
Mrs. Miller began the long hike through the waist-deep swiftly moving current. Sue had almost made it to dry land, but she was completely exhausted. With just 20 yards to go, she stopped as she felt Bobby slipping out of her left arm. She didn’t have the strength to hold him anymore. Bobby was slipping into the water.
Sue shouted, “Billy, grab your brother help me hold him up!” Billy did just that. He grabbed his little brother with one arm and held on to his mother with the other. He was using all the strength his little body could muster to save his brother.
Men standing on the hillside saw Sue was in trouble so they jumped into the floodwaters to help her. A policeman grabbed the boys and two firemen caught Mrs. Miller just in the nick of time as she collapsed into the water from pure exhaustion. They carried her to the safety of dry land placing her and the boys in the back seat of a police car.
In another second Sue and her boys may have been washed away in the swift current becoming victims of the Danger Zone. Sadly, on this day three people lost their lives. All the homes at Camp Horne Trailer Park were destroyed. Many families were left homeless in the span of a couple of hours. Their dreams and possessions were washed away by the powerful floodwaters.
No one knew they were in the Danger Zone until it was too late.
This true story was told to me by my mother who knew the people involved. Always pay attention to your surroundings as the Danger Zone is lurking out there somewhere. It will strike when you least expect it. People can and will commit acts of courage and bravery when faced with danger. However, it is better to stay alert and avoid the Danger Zone, if at all possible. Mrs. Miller made several mistakes, but the most serious one was leaving the boys alone as they were too young to be left unattended.