Swiss ‘Samaritans’
April 1988

“Swiss ‘Samaritans’” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 45

Swiss “Samaritans”

We were driving through the majestic Swiss Alps on a family vacation when, without warning, our van lost all power. My husband, Floyd, pulled over to the side of the motorway and tried to restart the engine. Suddenly there was a loud bang. “It’s okay,” Floyd said. “Just a backfire.”

But something impelled me to look out the back window. To my horror, I saw a trail of fire flowing out from under the van and continuing a dozen feet behind us.

“There’s a fire!” I cried. Floyd reacted instantly. “Everyone out of the van—now!” he yelled, running around to open the side doors for us. Our two girls, ages sixteen and six, scrambled out and ran down the roadside. Four-year-old Matthew, shoeless and frightened, was next into his father’s arms, and he, too, was sent scampering to get away from the anticipated explosion.

The baby and I were last. It seemed to take forever to unfasten Brandon from his car seat. Floyd helped us out, and we ran, too.

Oily black smoke billowed into the sky. A young French couple were the first to stop. The language barrier did not deter us from communicating our distress, and the man ran off to telephone for help. His wife helped calm the children.

Next a truck driver stopped. Again we could not communicate, but he started to put out the fire with an extinguisher from his truck. Then he rescued most of our baggage. The van continued to burn.

By now, farmers had wandered out of their homes to watch the excitement. Soon a large fire truck and police cars roared up. They quickly extinguished the blaze and retrieved the rest of our baggage.

We felt relieved to be safe and to have most of our belongings as well. But the van was a total ruin. And now our predicament dawned on us. Our little family was marooned at the side of a highway in Switzerland. All our suitcases and our children’s paraphernalia were scattered along the road beside the burned-out, useless van.

“Anyone here speak English?” my husband asked hopefully. There were only blank looks and a few shrugs.

Then a man and his son stepped forward. “You come my house,” he said. “You come my house.” He pointed across the valley to a small cottage. It took three trips in his little car to get all of us and our gear there. Our benefactor’s wife and family fed us, bedded down our weary children, and helped us sort through and repack all our things.

The wife spoke perfect English, and we stayed up late in the night talking with them. But it wasn’t until the next morning as we prepared to leave that we discovered they were fellow Latter-day Saints. Hugs, laughs, and a few tears were exchanged.

That day in the Alps was the most memorable part of our trip. We will never forget our fearsome experience. Nor shall we forget that Swiss family—brothers and sisters in the gospel whom we found by accident—and the love they showed for us.

  • Karen L. Brown, a homemaker, is a Merrie Miss B teacher in her Encinitas, California, ward.