Yesterday night the Coconino County Sheriff’s office released details concerning the location of Jerold Williams’ body. I have to say I’m still trying to wrap my head around this and decide what to make of it, and what lessons to take away from it.
It’s been a bit difficult. Mainly because the lost boy was found 15 feet off a forest road in a location far from the primary search area (8 miles down the road); and very, very near the one I felt I should go to before I ever left my home to join the search.
On Friday Morning at about 10:00 AM when the press release was put out for missing Jerold, I jumped on Google Earth and scouted the area. From the vague details given in the press release I guessed pretty accurately where the boy’s family had been camping off Forest Road 241 south of Jacob’s Lake Arizona. From the topography, my intuition told me he would head downhill, (which leads away from the main highway). As I scouted the two most likely drainages and followed them to their convergence on the southwest edge of the plateau a canyon stuck out to me. This drainage was a logical probability. But what was not logical was a strong thought I had as I looked at the map… that he would not be in that drainage but in a very small, un-named drainage directly south of the large drainage. I tried to work through the logic of my thought /impression, and determined that perhaps once he dropped off the Plateau he would realize his error and seek to climb back up using the drainage my thoughts pointed to.
After this perusal of the subject, I tried to drop it and get back to work… but I couldn’t let it go for some reason. Within an hour I called the Coconino Sheriff’s office to see if I could get some more information and volunteer. I was told they were not seeking, or in need of, volunteers and transferred to Gerry Blair where I left a message with my contact information. As the hours wore on I grew more antsy. I called the Sheriff’s office again and left my information with a dispatcher. My thoughts wandered to the memory of a news story I saw in January of 2004. Katie Whitney’s car was stolen in front of her Sandy, Utah home with her six-week baby inside. It was after dark and well below freezing (~14° F). The car was miraculously located less than an hour later by a “good samaritan” from Draper, who “told police he was watching television… saw the news report about the auto theft and the missing baby and… felt like he needed to help…” He related that he “said a prayer and then drove to Jordan Commons where he located the vehicle”.
Through the day I continued to frequent the Coconino sheriff’s office Facebook page and watch for any change in their stance on volunteers. By the end of Friday and early Saturday morning I found myself getting increasingly angry at the Coconino Sheriff’s office. I left several Facebook posts on their page saying how big of a mistake I thought it was for them to discourage volunteers. By late Saturday I decided that if I felt this strongly about helping, I should just go. I saw a Facebook comment where someone said they were now accepting volunteers (which the sheriff’s office quickly dismissed as an incorrect rumor), but it was enough for me to disregard the Sheriff’s office repeated discouragements and go anyway. It was a two hour drive to Jacob’s Lake and I got there around 4:00pm.
When I got to forest road 241 I was worried that if a Sheriff saw me they might send me home. (I later learned they weren’t really turning anyone away.) I tried to avoid law enforcement as I drove through the base camp toward the spot my intuition had pointed me to. But as I headed the miles down forest road 241 it quickly became clear that this was a longer distance than it looked on Google Earth. I had measured the ~4 mile distance on Google Earth but driving it while attempting to put myself in a 5 year old’s shoes seemed like an eternity. At mile 4, after passing four diverging side roads I second guessed myself and decided my initial destination was illogical. I looked at the satellite imagery on my tablet for a while, turned around and headed back a half mile to take a side road which lead further up the drainage. I hiked until past dark, a few miles into two drainages 3 miles below where he was last seen. As the light gradually grew dimmer I walked and prayed and philosophized about how tell the difference between my own thoughts and a higher sourced impression (something I believe deeply in, and have had other experiences with).
I spent over five hours, following my thoughts/impressions only to find nothing but my own sorrow as I imagined what it would be like if this 5 year old boy was my own. I pictured him scared, cold and wet, huddled up in one of the many rocky overhangs in a forest full of shadows and eerie silence. I saw no one and heard no one as I headed in the dark back toward base camp, where I would stop and talk to other searchers about where they were concentrating their efforts and what progress was being made.
That night I slept in my car in a down mummy-bag and blanket, and still woke up several times because I was cold. It’s understood that I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold, but the next morning I thought that because of the hard rain the first night— after three cold nights there was no longer much chance that Jerold was conscious or even alive. I spent 7 hours searching two more drainages. The forest was much thicker and overgrown in these drainages and by the end I had concluded that his body was likely in the thicket within a mile of where he went lost and that the existing search parties which were combing that area would have a better chance of finding him than me.
Before I left for home I decided to make one last drive out toward where I had initially come to look. I drove 6.5 of the 8 miles out toward the end of the road which led to the canyon that had initially caught my eye back in my office. As I neared forest road 240 (where he was later found), I thought about how selfish and silly I was being. I thought that perhaps the only reason I wanted to go out to this illogical place was because I imagined it would have an amazing view of the Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon. I thought that he was certainly dead by now, so what was I trying to prove? I frustratingly thought, how many times have I had a thought or impression of where to look during my search and they have all proved to be wrong!
As a new storm moved into the area and rain clouds began to build, I turned my car around and headed home.
The next day, boys in the back of a truck spotted Jerold’s body 15 feet off forest road 240, about 2 miles from where I turned around and a third a mile from where I would have parked to hike into the canyon I had initially planned to look in.
Take Away Points?
I write this now to clear my head and ask myself what am I to take away from this experience? It’s unknown how long it took Jerold to make it to where he was found. It’s unknown what path he took to get there. Its speculated that he walked on forest road 241, but then why didn’t searchers (who frequented that road from the first night) see him? And why did he turn off on the less well-worn forest road 240 instead of staying on 241? We’ll never know what he was thinking, how he got there or how many days he lived. (The storms and highly variable temperatures make time of death estimates difficult.) I’ll never know whether I would have run into him had I left Friday afternoon and headed straight to my intended location near where he was found. I’ll never know whether my thought was inspiration or coincidence. Whether I’m assigning meaning to happenstance. I’m sure every other searcher on that mountain was praying to find that boy… and yet only one did. I’m sure they were all praying to find him alive, and yet no one did. I continue to ask myself, what is the difference between our own thoughts and thoughts which originate from a higher place outside ourselves? I think the takeaway point is… does it matter? We should all just always follow our highest light… be that what it may—without second guessing and without fear of being wrong.
–KMZ of google placemarks and trails.