Hit by Lightning: How I Was Saved by My Girl Scout Camp Buddy
It was the summer of 1967 and I was going into sixth grade. My family had just moved to a new town so my mom was looking around for stuff for my three brothers and me to do since we didn’t know anyone in the area. When she found out that a neighbor was going to Pisgah Girl Scout Camp in Brevard, North Carolina, for two weeks she signed me up too. The neighbor already had a buddy in our tent, so I was assigned to Laurie Luna. At Pisgah, you don’t go anywhere without your buddy.
One afternoon, we were at the lake canoeing. In the mountains, the saying is, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Just like that, a thunderstorm came rolling in so the counselors sent us to our tents so we could write letters to our parents until the rain stopped.
We were staying in an A-frame tent and we had left the flaps up because it was hot out. I stood on my metal bed to let down a flap and suddenly lightning struck a tree outside the tent. It traveled from the metal clothes line stretched between that tree and another one—burning all the bathing suits—went down into the tree roots, which were tied up into the floorboards of the tents, and hit my bed.
In an instant, two-thirds of my body was burned and I was lying on the floor.
The other three girls screamed and went running out of the tent, but Laurie realized she didn’t have her buddy—at Pisgah, they kind of beat the buddy system into your brain. She came back and found me on the floor. Laurie brought a counselor to give me CPR and then went and found a nurse, who put me in a station wagon and rushed me to the hospital.
When I came to, two or three days later, they brought Laurie by, and when she saw me, she thought I wasn’t going to live. I had major burns, internal and external, and the doctors had told my parents to prepare for the worst.
But things worked out, and I have had a full, rich life—with a great career and a family—all because of Laurie and the Girl Scout buddy system.
I never forgot that day and I still have scarring, although my hair mostly covers it. I continued in Girl Scouts through Seniors and then become a troop helper to our leader. In college, I helped on occasion when I came home. Later, I became a teacher, got married, and had a family, and, as my children grew, I was a troop leader for a few years too.
I taught eighth grade science for 30 years and, at the end of the school year, I would always tell my lightning story. The kids would ask if I was still in touch with Laurie. I always meant to track her down.
I’m retired now and spend my time traveling with my husband and visiting with our grandsons. I finally decided it was time to find Laurie one Sunday morning when I was listening to the “Missed Connections” series on NPR so I sent them a letter. When they responded, NPR said it was a long time ago but that they would try! They put a post on their blog and on Facebook, and the local Girl Scout council—Carolinas, Peaks to Piedmont—shared it too. Eventually, Laurie’s sister saw it and NPR connected us. Because of them, we were able to meet up and tour the camp we had gone to together...more than 50 years after we had been campers there.
Linda Walker is a retired school teacher and a proud Girl Scout alum in Morganton, North Carolina.