Stuck on a Mountain Pass

“When I was nineteen, I was in the US Air Force and stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana,” says Laura Stainbrook of Lewistown, Montana. “I wanted desperately to go home for Christmas, to Missoula, about 300 miles away, over a mountain pass.”

Laura had no vacation time built up, but she asked for the time off and was granted four days. “Not a minute more,” the flight sergeant warned her. “If you’re late, you’ll be considered AWOL.” Laura understood. Although the trip was difficult, mostly due to the bitter cold, she arrived safely in Missoula, and had a wonderful Christmas. The day she was to depart, however, a huge snowstorm was heading their way. “Laura, you can’t leave now. You’ll be stranded on the road.” Laura’s mother was panicky.

“Mom, I have to go—if I don’t, I’ll end up AWOL and in jail.” Laura didn’t want to leave either, but she had no choice. And by the time she was approaching the top of the pass, it was snowing so hard that she could no longer see the road. Somehow she arrived safely in Lincoln, a small town with a pay phone which she used to reassure her mother that all was well.

But it wasn’t. “I could barely see anything and visibility was probably about five feet in front of me, “ Laura says. “I drove slowly, concentrating on the guard rail. I had driven about two miles when I saw a sign: “77 miles to Missoula.” No! When she’d gotten back in her car after making the phone call, she had somehow turned around! She was driving back the way she had come! Frightened, she pulled her car into a snow-filled “turn-around,” and attempted to change directions. The wheels spun, going neither backwards or forward. Her heart sinking, Laura realized that she was hopelessly stuck on the side of a mountain pass.

Panic swept over her. It was dark, with at least a foot of thick snow on the highway, perhaps twenty degrees below zero and the nearest town two miles away. She could die here. But Laura knew that although she was no longer in control, Someone Else was. "God, I know I don’t deserve it…I should never have done this, but….please help me!” Tears began to gather as she prayed. And then, just a moment later, without any warning, she felt a push on her rear bumper, and then another… A car was behind her! But how…she could barely see its outline---how could it have seen her?

Her car kept moving, as Laura tried to decide what to do. Get out and run, in case the car’s occupant was up to no good? Or roll down the window and wave her thanks? Then suddenly, as fast as it had appeared, the vehicle behind her was gone. Laura sat there, stunned. She was now ON the highway, turned in the right direction and there were no taillights going down the road to prove there had been assistance, nothing at all but the darkness. A strange sensation came over Laura. She was filled with a trembling form of thankfulness, no less awesome as she safely drove the next twelve hours (on a trip that should have taken five) following a semi very closely. And the adventure wasn’t over yet.

“When I arrived at the base, my car’s gas tank was way below empty,” Laura says. Never before (and never since) had she been able to drive that distance on the same amount of fuel. “I have always known in my heart I was saved by angels. It’s the only reason I am alive today to tell this story.”

Joan Anderson Copyrighted by Joan Wester Anderson, used with permission. Originally appeared on the Where Angels Walk website,

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