As my family has followed the James Kim story, each of us, in our own way, has been taken back in time thirteen years. In October of 1993, my sister’s 38 year old husband, Rob, left Seattle early one morning to fly a small plane to Kelso, Washington with his colleague, Lena. The two worked for public television – Rob, a videographer, Lena, a producer - and were working on a story about old growth forests in the northwest. The weather was bad that morning, and fog overtook the area. Rob’s plane went down. Lena died on impact, but Rob survived the crash itself. He climbed out of the wreckage and began trekking across the rugged terrain, one that was very similar to what James Kim tried to navigate, toward the highway. Rob went missing for two days. Search and Rescue, accompanied by close friends and family members, found him later the second day. Like James Kim, Rob died from hypothermia. He, too, had begun to shed his clothes. He, too, possessed the mental skills and the physical attributes for surviving such dire conditions, but, in the end, the temperature dipped too low. Like James Kim, Rob left behind two beautiful daughters and a smart, kind and loving wife.
I think about Rob’s heroic last few hours often. I heard my sister tell the story a hundred times to her two year old about how “Daddy tried so hard to get back to you, to us.”
Now I think about James Kim’s last hours, how he reached deeper than he probably knew he ever could, to try and save his family. I also think about the way the story will be told by Kati Kim to her daughters, and how, over the years, they will come to know him through that story and the memories and legacy he left behind. He, like Rob, seemed like an amazing husband, father and friend.