The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 1, March 2006
hullabaloo of thanksgiving.  The helicopter that had arrived so precociously had left shortly after landing, and had been unable to return due to the heavy blanket of fog that had cloaked the valley during the wee hours of the morning.  An ambulance was standing by, however, ready to whisk Gregg to the hospital in Somerset, where he would be airlifted to Louisville.

I helped load Gregg into the ambulance, more out of a need for personal symbolism, a totem of completeness, than for any lack of stronger arms that could carry him.  I confess my hubris:  I am very proud to say I was among the first group of hands that lifted Gregg from the floor of the Big Room, as well as among the final group of hands that scooted him into the ambulance seven hours later; seven hours that were so much more than a concatenation of events and endeavors, so much more than seven hours of selfless toil.

I was not the same person who had gotten an urgent phone message a mere twelve hours ago.  All that I had learned in that single, awe-inspiring night is still revealing itself to me, months later—even as I sit here at my computer.  Close my eyes, and I am there again.  It is a good feeling.  A feeling of something real in a lifetime of dreams and uncertain progress.  A chance to have done something that actually mattered.  It is a profound comfort in times of doubt.  I thank all of the wonderful people who were my fellow rescuers that evening for reassuring me of the potent decency of humanity.  How can one ever repay such largesse?

As the ambulance drove away, a lightness of spirit infected all of those it left behind.  The rescue was a resounding success; a model of speedy accomplishment.  Less than 14 hours had passed from


the moment of the accident to the punctuating closing of the ambulance door, Gregg safely inside.  It was a day’s work we can all be proud of. Naturally, all of us were deeply concerned for Gregg’s immediate and future welfare, but for now, our part was over.  The cheerful volunteers that offered us sandwiches and soft drinks appeared like angels of mercy.  I slugged down three Mountain Dews in a row, relishing their syrupy zing as never before.  A lot of back clapping, hand shaking and bear hugs were exchanged as we slowly dispersed into the mounting day.  Suddenly it occurred to me that I still had an MVG meeting to conduct.  It seemed so surreal and downright silly, I could not help but chuckle. 

Justin Gibbs, who had arrived too late to be part of the actual rescue, was jesting with us as we chatted on the side of the Crockett’s driveway.  It should be noted the Justin, too, made a substantial contribution to the rescue, for he single-handedly hauled out the ropes, depleted oxygen tanks and gear left behind in the Big Room, relieving us exhausted folk from the chose of post-rescue cleanup.  Justin also returned the blankets and overlooked equipment to the Tateville Volunteer Fire Department; a most appreciated act of goodwill that helped put all us cavers in a better light.  To the uninitiated, cavers are a rather misunderstood and under-appreciated lot, and any positive public relations on our behalf is a step in the right direction.  Thanks, Justin.

Since this fateful evening, I have seen Gregg Harrington regrettably only once, visiting him in Louisville a day after surgery that removed his dysfunctional gallbladder.  He was genuinely pleasant company, despite his inability to speak beyond a labored whisper, due to the tracheotomy that had been performed to assist his breathing.  After over a month and a half at University of Louisville Hospital,

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