In 1989, an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes.
In the midst of utter devastation and chaos, a man left his wife securely at home and rushed to the school where his son was supposed to be, only to discover that the building was as flat as a pancake.
After the traumatic initial shock, he remembered the promise he had made to his son: “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!” And tears began to fill his eyes.
As he looked at the pile of debris that once was the school, it looked hopeless, but he kept remembering his commitment to his son.
He began to concentrate on where he walked his son to class at school each morning. Remembering his son’s classroom would be in the back right corner of the building, he rushed there and started digging through the rubble.
As he was digging, other forlorn parents arrived, clutching their hearts, saying: “My son!” “My daughter!” Other well-meaning parents tried to pull him off of what was left of the school saying:
“It’s too late!” “They’re dead!” “You can’t help!” “Go home!”
“Come on, face reality, there’s nothing you can do!””You’re just going to make things worse!”
To each parent he responded with one line: “Are you going to help me now?” And then he proceeded to dig for his son, stone by stone.
The fire chief showed up and tried to pull him off of the school’s debris saying “Fires are breaking out, explosions are happening everywhere. You’re in danger. We’ll take care of it. Go home.”
To which this loving, caring Armenian father asked, “Are you going to help me now?”
The police came and said, “You’re angry, distraught and it’s over. You’re endangering others. Go home. We’ll handle it!”
To which he replied, “Are you going to help me now?” No one helped.
Courageously he proceeded alone because he needed to know for himself: “Is my boy alive or is he dead?”
He dug for eight hours … 12 hours … 24 hours … 36 hours … then, in the 38th hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name,
He heard back, “Dad!?! It’s me, Dad! I told the other kids not to worry. I told ’em that if you were alive, you’d save me and when you saved me, they’d be saved. You promised, ‘No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!’ You did it, Dad!”
“What’s going on in there? How is it?” the father asked.
“There are 14 of us left out of 33, Dad. We’re scared, hungry, thirsty and thankful you’re here. When the building collapsed, it made a wedge, like a triangle, and it saved us.”
“Come on out, boy!”
“No, Dad! Let the other kids out first, ’cause I know you’ll get me! No matter what, I know you’ll be there for me!”
By Mark V. Hansen
More in the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul” by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen