Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Miracle of Cokeville

Cokeville , Wyoming was the sight of a parent's worst nightmare on May 16th, 1986 when a mentally disturbed man and his wife entered an elementary school with guns and a homemade gasoline bomb.

The man's name was David Young, a former town marshal. He had been the tiny's towns only police officer in six months during 1979 and when he was fired, he moved to Tucson, Arizona. He and his wife returned to Cokeville in 1986 and carried out their insidious plan. Young had a manifesto called "Zero-Infiniti" and proclaimed "this is a revolution!" as he and his wife took an entire generation - over 160 children and teachers - hostage and wouldn't release them until he was given 300 million dollars and a personal phone call from the President of the United States.

Keeping all the children in a single room and standing in the middle of it, the Youngs began a standoff that would last 2 1/2 hours. David left the room leaving his wife alone and it was then that the bomb went off instantly killing Doris. Young returned and seeing his wife dead, turned his gun on himself and pulled the trigger.

The miraculous thing is that despite the shooting and the detonation of the bomb, the Youngs were the only casualties. Some children suffered flash burns from the explosion, but all were alive. In the last 20 years, this event has become known as The Miracle of Cokesville.

The story runs deeper. Bomb experts called out to the scene were stunned. They couldn't figure out why the school was still intact when a bomb that size should have obliterated the entire side of the building leaving everyone - the hostage-takers and the hostages - all dead. How was this possible? To this day no one has provided an explanation. The children and teachers were alive and that was all that apparently mattered.

Then the children began to tell stories of angels who appeared to them and instructed them to move to a corner of the classroom because the bomb was about to explode. Some reported seeing beautiful figures in white while others said that they saw long-dead relatives telling them not to be afraid. Many said later that there was an angel in the room for every child and that each was protecting their charge. Some children said that they didn't see anything, but rather heard disembodied voices telling them that the disaster was about to happen and that they would be spared.


All of these stories may seem like a child's fancy had it not been for the miraculous survival of everyone in the room. Adding to the mystery was the fact that on one of the blackened walls covered with shrapnel that somehow misses every child in the room was burned the outline of a human shape with wings (Special thanks to Jason Guilbault for sending me the pictures!).

A bomb that should have leveled a building somehow spared 167 innocent people that stood unprotected in the same room. Did God send down angels to protect them? Were they protected by the loving spirits of relatives? Or was it just a case of blind luck that only the hostage takers met there end on that day?

The only thing that can be said for certainty is that - through divine will or incredible chance - Cokeville was the sight of a miracle.

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