Thursday, January 8, 2009
Saint Sheila and the Storm of the Century. A Hero's Tale.
We are going to pause a moment and celebrate The Savior of Lehi, our very own Sheila Powell, Teacher Extraordinary at the Space Center. While many in this small Utah town were buried under 90 inches of snow, huddling around their fires and praying for deliverance, Sheila took matters into her own hands. Realizing she would be facing Winter’s frigid wrath, Sheila layered herself in warm clothing and moved toward her front door only to discover it was blocked by several feet of snow. Winter had entombed her and was in no mood to entertain an early release. What old man winter didn’t know was Sheila’s stage name - Sheila ‘Houdini’ Powell. There isn’t a cage built that can hold Sheila Powell.
Sheila opened a second story window, braced herself in the windowsill and jumped. It was a belly flop into the powdery snow below. The force of impact left her four feet below the snow's surface. She fought and clawed her way to toward the light.
Her sun glasses surfaced first followed by a hand and then a knitted cap. A minute later a nose emerged searching for oxygen. With snow shoes in place she eventually surfaced like a submarine jumping free of the ocean.
Wind propelled ice darts swarmed around her and yet she continued toward her tractor. Darkness descended like death and yet she continued. Neighbors, watching from their windows, shouted at her to turn back - yet she continued. Soon word of Sheila’s act of heroism spread by telephone. Lehi’s phone exchange was overwhelmed. KSL’s news helicopter braved the storm and moved into place above her home to capture this epic struggle. Thousands watched. Candles were lit and prayers said in churches statewide. A local Las Vegas television station picked up the news feed. Soon every casino’s large screen televisions were tuned to the Sheila Channel. Bet’s were taken. The odds were against her.
“Forward girl Forward,” Sheila said to herself as she moved ahead one foot at a time. Her garage loomed before her - a large dark wall in the distance. She felt the cold penetrating the layers of her clothing. “My shields are down,” she shouted when she realized biting cold had broken through her defenses. Her fingers and toes screamed under the barrage. Then she stopped. The nation’s heart stopped with her. Everyone moved closer to their televisions.
“Mommy is she going to die,” Little Susie Walker said from her warm home in Little Rock Arkansas.
“I don’t know dear,” her mother replied, voicing what parents were saying to their children from coast to coast.
Sheila looked up into the spot light from the news helicopter. “This is it,” she thought. “Death is here. I see the light,” She remembered a sermon from a tent revival she attend as a little girl. She remember the preacher stomping back and forth on the stage, his arms in constant motion as he waved his Bible between heaven and the congregation. She remember him saying that when it was your time Jesus would send a light to show you the way home.
She moved toward the light. "If you want me Jesus I'm yours but not at Winter's hand!” she shouted into the wind. She reached out in prayerful supplication and thump! She hit the wall of her garage. Suddenly Sheila's senses were restored. She had reached the berth of her friend and tractor - Hercules. Her Olympic goal was in reach. “Thank you Jesus,” she said. She tried to open the garage door. It seemed frozen shut. “Lord, one more small favor. I’ll need your help with this door and then I won't bother you again."
The ice holding the door in place cracked and gave way. The garage door swung open. "Thank you," Sheila whispered. She slammed the door behind her to hold back the cold wind. She disappeared from the camera. The world watched and waited. Some used the time for a quick trip to the bathroom and kitchen.
Suddenly the large garage door pulled upward. The roar of an engine was heard moving through the howling wind. Out burst Sheila on her tractor named ‘Hercules’. She looked like a bundled cowboy on a very unhappy bull. The blade was down and in position. Smoke poured from the exhaust pipe. She surged forward at maximum warp. The tractor’s blade slammed into the snow bank. The power of the collision nearly sent Sheila over the steering wheel and into the maelstrom. She retreated. Once back in the garage she firmly belted herself into the seat and reached under the seat to find her mouth guard. She spent a fortune on her chompers and wasn't going to risk them getting damaged. She took a moment to regain her wits. She looked into Winter's wrath billowing in front of her. It was beautiful in its own way like the Siren's song but she wouldn't be deterred. She powered up the engine and slowly took her foot off the clutch. Again she attacked. The blade dug into the white wall. It budged! Almost imperceptibly but it did move.
Winter's dam was breached. The snow was in retreat. Sheila had done it. She conquered the storm of the century.
Friends, Sheila is an example of the kind of people we have working at the Space Center. And you thought we were all just average Joes. Shame on you.
Your penance is one snow angel.
Now take a minute and book one mission in your favorite simulator. Have a nice day and may the road rise up to meet you.