‘Our brave little girl’
Craig girl saves great-grandmother after car accident
September 24, 2007
Craig — A pickup travels down a dusty, deserted gravel road 15 miles outside of Philip, S.D.
Marie Lamm, 79, rides home after running errands with her 7-year-old great-granddaughter, Mikayla Quinn.
Mikayla, a Craig resident, is staying with relatives during the summer while her parents take a vacation to Italy. It’s the beginning of a two-week holiday.
It’s Aug. 9, and there’s only a few weeks left before summer adventures give way to school-year doldrums.
It’s hot this day. More than 100 degrees, for sure.
Can we get some air on, asks Mikayla from the backseat.
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Lamm reaches down to turn the air conditioning knob, as she had surely more than a couple of times before.
On this day, though, it’s not a simple click and then a cold gust from the vents.
Lamm loses control of the truck. It slides right across the loose gravel. She tries to correct and sends the vehicle careening to the left.
She tries to correct again and the truck tips over on the driver’s side, sliding to a stop in the loose, dusty gravel.
“It was dark,” Mikayla said. “I was hanging in the air by my seatbelt. I unbuckled and peeked over the seat and saw my grandmother’s big cut on her head.”
Lamm had not been wearing her seatbelt, and her arm was lying in the broken glass of the driver’s side window, Mikayla said.
Mikayla watched her great-grandmother shift, trying to move, until the girl told her to stop.
“Go get help,” Lamm said. “I don’t know how long I can make it.”
Mikayla nodded. She heard her heart, beating inside her chest.
Lamm tells Mikayla to try and climb out of the door. The girl puts one hand over the other, climbs vertically up the seat, and reaches up to the handle.
But the door is too heavy to budge open.
Try the window, Lamm says.
Sure enough, though the air conditioner is shut off, the electric window rolls down effortlessly, as if it doesn’t know anything is anything but normal.
Mikayla puts her feet on the headrests and her hands through the small opening. She lifts herself into the afternoon sun, out of the dark box of the pickup.
“I’ll go get help,” Mikayla says to her great-grandmother.
And with that, she puts her foot down on the bottom of the truck and leaps onto a road she had never seen before this afternoon. She doesn’t remember the way to Philip, but she walks back the way their truck came, hoping to reach town before too long.
Young Mikayla describes herself as being afraid of a lot of things, among them rattlesnakes, bats, spiders and especially heights.
“I was scared of rattlesnakes the whole time,” Mikayla said. “I was praying a whole lot. That’s practically all I did.”
Still, she presses on.
“I started to walk down the gravel road, and it was pretty dang hot,” Mikayla said. “I prayed to God and the angels. I forgot which way to go to town. There was a T (intersection) and that was pretty hard to figure out where to go.”
Mikayla’s road dead-ends into another, and she stands there for a while, unsure about which way to go.
She is thirsty. She is weeping. She is praying.
Then she sees a truck going one way and can here traffic sounds. Instinctually, she starts walking toward the noise.
By the time she stops three bikers on the road, she has walked 2 1/2 miles in sandals underneath an unforgiving sun, without food, water or encouragement.
During her journey, Mikayla would get dispirited and stop for a second, then remember where she was and keep going. Other times she would spontaneously panic, and run and run and run.
“One of my sandals cut my foot,” Mikayla said. “I promised myself if I found a house I would knock and knock and knock until someone came to the door.”
The three biker Samaritans – Thomas Miller of Hartford, Kevin Jucht of Bridgewater and Lynn Schwitz of Emery, all South Dakota residents – initially drove right past her, but one finally turned around and asked, ‘What’s the matter little girl?’ Mikayla said.
Mikayla smiled recalling the memory.
“I didn’t even think of bikers being mean,” she said.
One of the bikers had a cell phone and called 911. Emergency medical teams responded and airlifted Lamm to Rapid City Regional Hospital, the same hospital where young Mikayla was born, where doctors treated her gash, a broken shoulder and a shattered wrist.
Young Mikayla suffered no more than a light scratch and a bump next to her eye.
More than a month after the accident, Mikayla has no lingering marks from the incident, but she does think about it at night from time to time, when it’s dark.
Mikayla loves to write, she said. She wrote recently about an angel traveling the world throughout history to make sure people are OK.
“It’s just amazing she was able to put herself in that place and come out,” Mary said. “If she wouldn’t have been there, there’s no telling what might have happened. She’s our brave little girl.”