The Grand Canyon is as dangerous — as daunting — as it is beautiful.
More than two decades ago, Al Holiday of Hartland, Michigan, took his family on a vacation to Grand Canyon National Park.
Now, if you’ve been there, you know a few things. One is that the size and beauty exceed your expectations. It can’t be exaggerated. Another: there are sheer drop and warning signs not to go beyond the fence rails or leave the path (when there are no rails). People die each year doing just that.
Holiday brought along his 14-year-old sister Janie. At a lookout point, despite the warning signs, Jamie climbed through the railings to get a good photograph of the canyon floor. She took just a few steps and started shooting pictures when her feet slipped from under her and she fell.
A horrifying moment. She was sliding to certain death — when her body, for no known reason, simply stopped sliding down the steep gorge.
There was nothing I did to stop me,” she recounts.
There was sheer panic above, in her family. They only heard her scream. They could see her and assumed she had fallen a thousand feet (or more) to the bottom. Out of their sight, she was just stuck there on a steep embankment, with the bottom of the canyon far below. Every time she moved — tried to squirm her way up — she started to slip.
Terrifying is not the word for it. “I just stayed there,” she recalls, “and wondered: how am I supposed to get back up?’”
Desperate, she still tried to push herself up, but could get no footing. There was no way to do it alone.
She has no idea how it happened, but the next thing she knew, she found herself back at the top.
“I don’t remember moving up,” she says. “But I knew something strange had happened.”
A possible explanation materialized when she got home and told her mother what had happened.
At the exact moment she was hanging for her life on the side of a cliff, her mom, 1,500 miles away, experienced a powerful premonition. “I knew that Jamie was going to die,” she says.
As quickly as the panic rose in her did a sudden feeling of peace come over her. “I didn’t even know where they were.”
Years later, she traveled to the part of the canyon where her daughter nearly died. “Anyone who looks over that ledge knows there’s no way to ever get back to the top.” It was as if an angel had pushed her upward. “From that time on I felt safe always.