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Young Bern

Bernie the 4th, aka Young Bernie aka Sticks

I'll never forget walking down the aisle of the Teen Challenge Choir bus with a bag full of Doritos. We had just passed a sign that said we were at the Obed Summit and were more than a mile up. I felt the bus lose traction, start to slide. As the bus began to skid, I remember frantically looking around trying to reach for something to grab onto, but I came up empty. I felt like I had nothing to hold on to. Then the bus began to spin, and as the bus flew, airborne, the floor went out from under my feet, and then the crash. I just remember seeing snow fly up the side of the bus windows, and then I was laying on my back.

There was deafening silence as the driving snow began to blow in the open windows. As I was trying to open my eyes. I heard my dad calling, “Cathy?Cathy?,” "Where are you Cathy?" Still silence! I could hear the urgency in his voice as again he called out, "Cath?!" I'm not sure I've ever been so scared.

Though it was just a few minutes, it seemed like hours. Finally  I heard my mom’s faint reply, “Bern??”  I can’t describe the relief when I heard my mom answer. Her voice sounded weak but men moved quickly to her voice to help extract her from an overhead bin (now below) her seat.

I heard her reassuring voice softly, "I am OK, I think I’m OK."

Someone said, "Cathy, Look at your hand, you are bleeding."

My dad answered, "Get us a towel for the bleeding."  Then when he knew she was OK, he shouted, "How is everyone, call out!"

Jason P's voice the first I heard, "All right, Boss". . then, silence. One by one, the men began to call out-"OK Boss. I'm clear. Me too.

Men began to answer back, I could hear the men answer back with their names, "Brent, I'm OK."

"Todd, OK."

Bern Drums

I climbed out of one of the open windows. I remember seeing the bus wheels still just barely spinning. I thought how are we gonna fix this? Slowly but surely 21 people were pulled out of that wreckage including my brothers.

My sister did not come right away. They told me she was trapped in the back of bus. Upside down, the roof was collapsed tight against the top of her seat. She was trapped and held by her hair between the seat back and the roof of the bus.

Dad Bus

My dad had crawled through the wreckage to get to her in the back of the bus. We could hear her pleading, “Please daddy, don't cut my hair, mommy just did it so nice, please don't cut off my long hair!” I heard them talking in the back of the bus as Pop "busted" on, Rawle and Del who had been trying to free Becky.

They had been trying to lift weight that was trapping her by pushing up on the "roof "(which was actually the floor) straining with allof their might, they could not get it. "I salute your commitment," Pop joked, "But do you really think that you can lift the 16 tons of engine, axles differential and two tons of equipment with your shoulders alone?"

"Oh." they replied sheepishly. LOL !

Slowly but surely Pop worked her hair out from between the seat and roof, a few strands at a time, then more and more until they could lower her from her "angel sized hole" to the roof beneath them and pass her out of the bus. With a big smile on her face, she was taken from the bus, wrapped in a blanket and carried to a truck on the side of the road, A group of hunters who had stopped to help us, set up triage in the back of their box truck.

Once they got Becky out, they turned their attention to Spencer. Spence seemed to be pinned at the center aisle of the bus.  He was trapped under a seat and said he could not move. He thought his legs were trapped, but they actually were free, he just had no feeling in the lower part of his body. After the crash, the only way out was over top of Spence and almost every man had crawled over top of him to get out the only open window. We later learned that he had a fractured C-5 vertebra.

My dad had to make some tough decisions, because they knew it was dangerous to move Spence, but there in the snow, as the temperatures continued to drop, the wind was whipping through the open and broken bus window. They tried to pack him with sleeping bags and blankets, but hypothermia was a real concern. They prayed and felt getting him to safety and warmth was urgent so 4 of them carefully got him out of the side window of the bus.

Spence was so great, everyone had to crawl over him to get out, but he never said a word until my Dad got us out, freed Becky and came to him.

Bus recovery
bern and Bern
A couple hunters with a box truck full of sleeping bags and an empty school bus stopped. I remember lying in the back of that truck with my brother Chris who suffered a broken ankle and my sister, Becky. We were really cold and I was having trouble catching my breath. I remember the ambulance workers checked us all out and gave us all wristbands. Becky ended up going with a police officer to try to warm up in his squad car. When things started to settle down, I went to get her.
bern Sara

I remember finally finding her and returning, only to be grabbed by an EMT who seemed to be concerned that he couldn't find me. They put me in ambulance with Spencer (who had a broken neck) & Del (broken shoulder). I was thinking what am I doing here with these guys, I'm fine! I'll also never forget feeling the ambulance lose traction in the snow. That was pretty scary. We made it safely to the hospital. Pretty scary! It turned out that I had bruised ribs, a distended abdomen. There was concern that I had a ruptured spleen. I guess that's why they were worried about finding me. At the hospital they prayed, and God healed me, I did not need surgery.

Uncle Spence was diagnosed with broken vertebra 5 times at 2 hospitals. He was scheduled to be fitted for an orbit cast, (the metal cage where they drill holes in your skull to stabilize the break.) As the choir continued to pray as we made our way to British Columbia and folks from churches across Edmonton gathered around his bed to intercede, feeling returned to his legs.

The doctors did one more x-ray. Then they said there was evidence of a fracture but there was evidence that the break had been healed. The doctor concluded that Spence must have broken his neck when he was a kid and forgotten. We know how silly that sounds and that God healed Spencer. My brother Chris had a fractured ankle that went through his growth plate and they expected limited healing that would delay growth of one leg. They said he would never run again or walk normally. God healed him and he was able to play sports without restrictions.

Sara and Lucas

As I look back, I often remember that helpless feeling. I recall the futility as I attempted to find something to grab and hold onto. I learned it is not my ability to hold on. God always has hold of me.

Now I have my own family and Sara and I are raising our three kids, Natalie, Bernie the fifth and Lucas. Sara and I are pastors at Lighthouse Worship Center in Hayes, Virginia.

To this day, I have not forgotten that no matter what I face, survival has little to do with my ability to grab onto something because God is always holding onto me. He pulled us all through. I say it like this, "He'll pull you through if you can stand the pull. Trust Him, He's faithful."

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Tee Challenge Choir
Chris Gillott (mom says)
.Pete Gillott
George Glover Exec. Dir
Pentecostal Evangel