God as our Protector 

By Vic Kohring, June 10, 2017 

Have you ever wondered how you managed to survive a near impossible, even life-threatening situation? I've had my share of close calls through the years which could have easily ended my life, yet I'm still here. As a Christian, I've been in Satan's crosshairs many times. But thanks to God's intervention, I've lived to tell my story. If the Lord takes us early and brings us home, it's part of His plan. But for those who survive the longterm, many a bullet is dodged - at least for some of us.

The Bible says in Psalm 121 that, "The Lord will keep you from harm; he will watch over your life and your coming and going both now and forever more." The Lord has indeed provided me with a shield of protection on many occasion. For example, while campaigning for reelection to the legislature one year, gunshots were fired in separate drive by shooting attempts as I waved at cars along the Glenn Highway at the north Eagle River interchange. A direct hit could have been fatal. I wore a bullet proof vest to protect me and even packed a concealed weapon just in case, but it was God who actually kept me safe. The alternative was to stay home, back down and let my political enemies intimidate me and declare victory.       

While trapping one December day many years ago along the Chitina river flats near McCarthy at the foot of the Wrangell Mountains, I broke through lake ice but managed to pull myself up and prevent hypothermia from overtaking me. Not to mention escaping a near-drowning. When target practicing near Point McKenzie two decades ago, a bullet I fired from a .22 pistol at an old car riddled with hundreds of holes, ricocheted off the chassis and came straight back at me, striking my leg - one in a thousand odds. A slight deviation to it's trajectory could have meant disaster including piercing an organ or tearing through an artery. Again, God was present to protect me. 

In high school, I was driving the family car to basketball practice one afternoon when I was forced to take evasive action to avoid crunching into the back of an empty school bus, who's careless and indecisive driver screeched to an abrupt stop at the intersection of Dimond Boulevard and Victor Road in Anchorage. Given the height of the bumper on the bus in relation to my windshield (they were equal), a collision probably would have decapitated me as I slammed my brakes and burnt half the rubber off my screaming tires, coming to a stop an arm's length away. The bus driver approached me in the school parking lot a few minutes later to profusely apologize as I sat with my hands trembling while trying to regain my composure.  

In February of 1982 as a young man in my 20's, I required sinus surgery to correct a broken septum from getting whacked in the face playing basketball in high school. Three days after my surgery at a Seattle hospital, I was released to fly home. Instead, I chose to travel to Hawaii to convalesce for several days in the warm sunshine (it was February and frigid back home). While on the 747 flight headed for Honolulu an hour into the trip, altitude pressure triggered severe bleeding from the incisions. Fortunately, a physician was on board who treated me as I was sprawled across four vacated seats, but in actuality, little could be done to control the heavy bleeding flowing down the back of my throat and filling my stomach. I was getting dizzy and feared that if I lost consciousness, I would never wake up. 

The pilot chose to divert the flight directly through rough weather given the evolving emergency so we'd reach our designation sooner. So essentially, everyone on board was placed at risk. Upon landing, the hundreds of passengers were instructed to stay seated while the paramedics took me off on a stretcher. Then it was an ambulance to Queen's Hospital where a doctor finally stopped the bleeding after substantial blood loss. I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and saw my face and neck covered in blood. I looked like I'd been shot. (Two smart aleck policeman, whom I ignored, assumed I was in a fight and ridiculed me with unkind words.) The doctor kept me hospitalized, warning that an infection could prove serious and result in major bone loss. By then, I was very weak from my ordeal.

Years later as a graduate student at Alaska Pacific University in the habit of burning the midnight oil studying, I attempted to drive home to the Valley after a final exam I had crammed for the entire night before. As a precaution, I took the Old Glenn in case I dozed off, even though I was pumped up with coffee and "No Doz" caffeine pills. The idea was, since far less traffic existed on the Old Glenn verses the New, should I fall asleep at the wheel I might stand a greater chance at surviving a crash. Sure enough, I nodded off along the Knik River close to the old bridge by the Butte. But instead of crashing, my old jalopy simply rolled to a stop where there happened to be a gravel pull off. When I awoke, I found myself a few feet from the muddy, raging river with my heart pounding wildly. Ten feet over and drowning would have been inevitable.

The most extreme example of a near fatality occurred while an undergraduate college student in the Seattle area. After taking in an NBA basketball game between the Seattle SuperSonics and the New York Knicks on November 4, 1977, I was caught in the middle of a six-car pileup on Interstate 90, traveling across the Lake Washington bridge shortly before midnight. While a passenger, our car narrowly missed striking a stalled vehicle on the freeway, yet sustained damage to the undercarriage after it was deliberately hooked along a concrete curb to slow it down.

We miraculously came to a stop just eight feet behind the broken down car. After quickly looking under our rig to inspect the damage, I hopped back inside when we were suddenly hit from behind by a '67 Ford Mustang traveling about 55. The driver didn't see us as he was directly in back of a large delivery truck among a group of tightly packed vehicles, so he did not have full view of the highway. As he approached, he attempted to pass the truck and smashed into us. It was terrible timing. 

The impact severely injured the driver of the Mustang while causing me to careen into the windshield and dashboard, injuring my neck and forehead. The neck injury ended my basketball career at the college I was attending, which down the road required major corrective spinal surgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota after much suffering. Following the wreck and despite my injury, I was able to scramble over and help the man inside the Mustang. I will always remember the grotesque silhouette created from light reflecting off the bridge of his slumped body, with blood pouring off his face mangled by his windshield. He groaned in pain while semi-conscious and unable to speak. His injuries appeared fatal, although I never did find out if he survived after the paramedics took him away.

The most frightening part of my experience was nearly being pinned between our car and the vehicle we almost struck, as I checked for damage. Ten seconds elapsed from the time I was kneeling on the pavement looking under our car to when I stood up and got back inside, at which time we were pulverized from behind. The effect of the collision was so loud and so violent, it was as if a bomb exploded. Had I been between the cars during the collision, I would have been crushed and likely died on the spot. I still cringe at my close call when I reflect back even though it's been 40 years.

When I climbed out of our crumpled car, I looked behind me and was horrified to see a multitude of cars bearing down on us at a high rate of speed. It was a nightmare unfolding before my eyes. Some cars were unable to stop and rammed into us, creating a chain effect. I frantically waived to catch motorists attention to stave off an even worse calamity as headlights from dozens of oncoming cars nearly blinded me. I was worried the drivers would not slow in time and would strike us again and again. There was little room on the freeway, which was actually a floating concrete bridge across Lake Washington, and no shoulder to pull over. Next to the white fog line was a concrete curb, so it was impossible to get around a stalled vehicle.

When disaster appeared imminent, I stepped to the edge of the bridge, looked down at the dark choppy water about 20 feet below and prepared to jump. It would be a quick decision, but necessary to preserve my life. Better to be wet and cold (and even risk drowning) than be crushed by cars tumbling at me out of control. Fortunately, jumping wasn't necessary as my worst fears weren't realized. When the dust settled, a half-dozen cars had crashed into each other with several people incurring major injuries, myself included.

Finally, an incident that could have had tragic consequences occurred one year while flying from Juneau to Seattle on Alaska Airlines. An hour into the flight while gazing out my window from my seat, I was stunned to observe a passenger jet suddenly appear out of the clouds and zip by us in the opposite direction. The plane was so close - I'm guessing 200 yards at most - I could almost read the lettering on it. I was stunned and asked myself - "Did I really see that?" It was a dark-painted aircraft, appearing to be a 727. Perhaps a cargo plane. Had a collision occurred, hundreds, myself included, would no doubt have instantly perished. Two planes traveling at 500 mph in opposite directions would have disintegrated each other on impact.

To this day, I have no idea what airline owned the plane and why it was flying so dangerously close. It was likely a breakdown in communication between the pilots or maybe a technical malfunction, causing the near miss. Moreover, nothing was ever reported in the press who probably were never aware of the situation that I'm certain was quietly kept from the public. A good old fashioned cover-up so company images weren't tarnished.

I was probably the only passenger who witnessed the event as I heard nothing from others on the flight. There should have been an investigation to determine why so many lives were placed at risk. It angers me when I think back and I regret not speaking up or even reporting the matter to the Feds. FAA rules require a minimum of at least a three mile lateral separation between commercial airliners or a thousand feet vertically. These rules were clearly violated.

Any one of these incidents could have claimed me, but thankfully I survived. Did God send a guardian angel or even a legion of angels to protect me as part of His plan? I'm convinced yes as the Bible suggests such angels exist. Jesus references them in Matthew and they are mentioned in Daniel and 2 Kings. I believe I was spared to eventually serve in the legislature - my destiny - in a position to help literally thousands of people on a wide range of issues, improving the lives of many in my state and community. So there was a reason, a purpose. 

"The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen you and protect you…"  2 Thessalonians 3:3

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