The Words of the Kim Family
Dear Jin-Suh, Yun-Shim, Sook-Jung, Kwang-Chul and Kwang-June:
Thank God! Thank God! These are the first words that came out of my mouth as I realized that I was still alive after the helicopter crashed.
The day we flew to Seoul from Chung Pyung (July 19, 2008), there was a hurricane warning. Although the hurricane, "Seagull", had already killed six people in Taiwan and continued its course towards the Korean peninsula, the weather conditions at Chung Pyung and in Seoul were determined as permissible for flight.
True Parents had a luncheon meeting with some of the church leaders in a Chinese restaurant at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Seoul. It was about 4:45 pm when we left Seoul by helicopter to return to Cheon Jeong Palace in Chung Pyung. Though it was still raining and cloudy, the pilot had checked out the weather conditions in Chung Pyung. Because of the now questionable weather conditions, he decided to follow the Bukhan (North Han) River towards the north. Chung Pyung Lake in front of the Chung Pyung Training Center is formed by a dam in the Bukhan River, which is a tributary of the Han River that flows through the city of Seoul.
As we continued following the Bukhan River, we encountered thick patches of fog and clouds, but we could still see well enough to follow the course. When we arrived in the area of Chung Pyung Training Center we could see the top of the Cheon Seong Mountain where the Cheon Jeong Palace is located. The heliport is located about 300 yards below the Palace at the foot of the mountain. From the helicopter, although we could see the top of Cheon Seong Mountain, the area where the heliport is located was covered by some fog and cloud.
As the helicopter approached the landing pad, suddenly a thick layer of fog moved in and completely covered the area. The pilot's view of the site became almost zero, but the landing wheels were already out and the helicopter was hovering over the landing pad about to land. But he decided, quickly, to take the craft up and out of the pitch dark, foggy area. It was then that the tail hit a tree and the helicopter reeled from side to side, the powerful blades plowing through trees by the scores. The pilot tried his best to find a way to secure a soft landing in the wooded area of thousands of pine trees. The helicopter, with only half of the tail wing, plowed through the woods for about 150 yards. It finally hit a big cherry tree and crashed in a muddy wooded area near a small stream. There also was a small pond less than 20 feet away from the crash site. Two of the five blades of the helicopter were lost as the craft went through the trees and the remaining three blades became stuck in the muddy hillside as the helicopter crashed. Boom...! It made a thunderous noise.
While the helicopter was going through this course of turmoil, which took only a minute, we who were on board were experiencing a roller coaster ride, holding onto whatever we could grab. Because of the thunderous sound of the crash, I lost consciousness for a moment. But the noise of the crying children was loud enough to bring me back. Among the 16 people (3 crew members, 13 passengers) in the helicopter, there were three children, Shin-goong nim (6 yrs.), Shin-wol nim (5 yrs.), and Shin-joon nim (5 yrs.). Upon regaining consciousness I realized that I was still tightly seat belted and hanging against the side of my chair. I struggled for a while to release myself. The cabin of the helicopter was in chaos as the copter was tilted on its left side. The children were crying at the top of their lungs.
At that moment it came back to me that Father and Mother were in the helicopter. Instinctively I shouted, "Save Father and Mother first!" Then I looked around the back of the cabin, where I knew 11 people had been seated, to locate the true grandchildren.
Glancing forward I noticed that two of the security brothers were already in the front section of the cabin where Father and Mother were seated. Father was dangling on the side of his chair, tightly seat-belted. He was struggling hard to release himself from the seat belt. So, Mr. Lee Sang-soo (security) lifted him up and Mr. Yoon Ki-byung (Father's assistant) released Father from the seat belt. Meanwhile, Mother's foot was stuck at the corner of the seat. Mr. Kim Seok-byung (Pyong-il Communications Co.) pulled her foot out of its trap.
Because the helicopter was tilted on its side, the entrance door was now located above us and so we had to lift Father, and then Mother, up through the door. By then, luckily, one of the crew members was already outside on the roof and he helped Father and Mother to finally get out. Once reaching the top of the helicopter, they had to slide eight feet down to the wet and muddy ground. Following True Parents, the grandchildren were lifted up through the exit and they followed the same path.
After the grandchildren were out, eight of us who accompanied Father and Mother that day climbed out of the door one by one. Nobody remembers who came out first or who was the last among us to leave the helicopter. When I made my way out, however, I could see a couple of people behind me. I still remember how urgent I felt when the smell of the smoke became overwhelming and also the strong heat from the flames which had just ignited and were about to burn the interior of the helicopter. In spite of the smoke and fire that had begun engulfing the cabin we all escaped safely from the helicopter without fighting one another.
When I found myself on the ground, I realized that I could not move with ease because of the rainfall and muddied ground. It seems that instinctively we all knew that we had to run as far away from the burning helicopter as possible that it could explode at any second. So we desperately trudged through the mud and rain, scared that an explosion would occur any second. It is a fact that the fuel helicopters use is more flammable than automobile gasoline and the fuel tanks which were attached on both sides of the copter could explode not just by fire but also by a strong impact or shock.
I immediately looked around to locate Father and Mother and the grandchildren. As I stood up from the fall in the mud I noticed True Father was carried away from the helicopter by the security brothers. But Mother was still stuck on the muddy ground struggling. Mr. Pak Jung-Hyun tried to help her to stand up, but she could not move her legs. So I quickly ran to her and put her on my back and tried to move away. Mr. Pak held her on on my back. The ground was so muddy and my back started hurting that I could not walk upright but half crawling. We were able to move up the hill about 70 yards and I finally collapsed. Father was about 10 yards ahead of us, sitting on the muddied ground behind a big pine tree. Someone shouted, "Bring Mother up here! It's safer!" But I could not carry her any further. At that point two young security brothers came to carry Mother to the place where Father was waiting. So, most of us including the three grandchildren, gathered together around Father while the rest were scattered nearby.
Though it was still raining, a strong and tall flame with dark black smoke engulfed the helicopter when we looked back at it. Father offered his lap so that Mother would have a place to lay her head. But she could not move even an inch. So, I sat on the ground near her head so she could rest her face on my lap. I hadn't noticed that my pants were almost completely covered with mud. It was then Mr. Pak took off his jacket, folded it and put it on my lap for Mother to lay her head. As we sat there for a while, we heard three explosions. The pine trees surrounding us amazingly protected us enough that none of the debris from the three explosions that followed fell on us.
It was about 25 minutes after the helicopter crashed that the ambulances and fire trucks arrived with fire fighters. I shouted that Father and Mother had to be carried out quickly to the Chungshim Hospital which was only about a mile away. I was not only worried about True Parents' injuries but also reporters' cameras. I did not want anyone to take pictures of True Parents covered in mud. Some security brothers who had witnessed the crash from the Palace came down to the site and immediately took Father and Mother on stretchers to the ambulances before any reporter appeared.
Shin Joon-nim was crying loudly, looking for his Onni, Im Ji-sun, but she had injured her back and could not move. She was on the ground nearby, in pain, and was also carried out on a stretcher to the ambulance. The rest of us helped one another until we reached ambulances, and we were safely transferred to the Chungshim Hospital emergency. It was about 6 P.M. when a nurse took off my mud-covered shoes!
Even before our arrival at the hospital, YTN news channel (CNN in Korea) reported the accident. Following the YTN news all the major news media in Korea covered the story with pictures of the burning helicopter.
Through that night and the next day at the hospital all of the passengers were thoroughly checked by X-ray and MRI. Several had fractures, or bruises to the back mostly minor injuries. Although everyone was still in shock from the trauma, thankfully there were no head injuries and everyone was conscious and mentally sound. The most seriously injured were Mother and Im Ji-sun who both had successful surgery on a dislocated spine. News of the accident got out and within hours people from around the world began calling. I had lost my cell phone in the fire so I was left pretty quiet for several hours until I got my new phone. My wife was finally able to reach me from New York in the middle of the night.
I began feeling severe pain on my back and neck. Thankfully, the doctor said that the tests showed I didn't have any fractures or dislocations or broken bones. The pain was coming from twisted and severely stressed muscles. That night I could hardly sleep because of the pain and flashbacks of that terrible thunderous crashing sound and the events that ensued. Even until today my memory has not been able to erase that terrible sound.
From the day after the accident occurred, numerous testimonies of spiritual nature came to us from all over the world. We also received a technical report from the helicopter's pilot and special investigators.
According to a specialist's investigation, over 90% of helicopter accidents are fatal to some or all passengers. About three months before this accident there was a military helicopter crash near the site where our helicopter crashed. All of the four passengers were instantly killed. I, myself, have seen and heard of helicopter accidents and I cannot recall any survivors. It is common knowledge that when a helicopter crashes, there are usually no survivors. So it was truly a miracle that all 16 people on board came out of the crash without shedding even a drop of blood. Furthermore, even the special investigators could not understand why it took more than 20 minutes until the helicopter exploded though the helicopter started burning as soon as it crashed. Usually when a helicopter crashes there is a fire that causes an immediate explosion.
Another miraculous fact is that, according to the pilot, if the helicopter had continued its course for another tenth of a second it would have crashed into a huge boulder which would have resulted in instant explosion and death to all passengers.
Also the three remaining blades became entrenched in the muddy hillside at the time of the crash. A specialist said that because they were stuck in the hill, the blades couldn't do any damage to the body of the helicopter. Had this not happened, because of the blades' spinning power the helicopter would have tumbled and been thrown upside down. A few sharp edged tree stems poked through the helicopter at the time of the crash. But none of those sharp edged tree stems came through to the passenger cabin area. One penetrated through the luggage compartment area only a foot away from a passenger seat. Another one came through the cockpit.
The special investigators could not understand why the fuel tank did not explode immediately after the crash. As I have mentioned before, the fuel used in helicopters is much more volatile and dangerously flammable even with a strong impact.
If the helicopter had fallen in a direction one degree (on the panel) north, it would have crashed onto the school buildings where there were hundreds of students.
These are some of the miraculous points shared by the pilots and special investigators.
On July 20th (one day after the accident) Kim Young-ho, a Korean movie director, spoke at a movie festival in the city of Puchun where 180 movie directors were attending a seminar. He described to them his fantastic experience just the day before when he was fishing at the lakeside of the Chung Pyung Training Center with a friend. It was around 5:00 pm. In the sky there suddenly appeared a big white helicopter flying over them. It was a cloudy and rainy day, but both he and his companion saw the helicopter riding on a beautiful rainbow. There was no sunshine then, so they were wondering how this beautiful rainbow appeared so clearly to them. More fantastically, they saw hundreds of white robed angels with white wings. They thought these were pigeons at the first sight. But they were real! They were flying with the helicopter, holding it, embracing it, surrounding it. They were completely shocked at what they were witnessing and didn't know if it was a dream or if it was really happening. Soon after they heard a loud crash. Later they heard on the TV news that Rev. Moon's helicopter had crashed with 16 people in it. Neither Kim Young-ho nor his friend are Unification Church members and, in fact, the movie director had never even seen Rev. Moon in his life.
An old Korean grandmother who claims to be a Unification Church member -- though she hardly knows what's currently going on in the Church -- saw Hyo-jin nim in her dream embracing a white helicopter. It was a few days before the accident when she saw this. Since she didn't know even that Hyo-jin nim had already passed into the spirit world, she thought that the church must have a toy helicopter factory.
We, who are aware of God's providential work and True Parents' critical importance at this time of the era of the fourth Adam, can interpret these spiritual testimonies. We can clearly see how much God and spirit world worked to protect True Parents. Just as at the time of Jesus' birth three wise men from the east who did not have anything to do with Jesus followed the star to show their respect to the birth of the Messiah. These two movie makers, non-believers of True Parents, clearly testified to this miracle. Also, we can interpret the grandmother's dream that Hyo-jin nim, from the spirit world, protected True Parents from harm. There are many more testimonies and stories like this which will be eventually revealed.
What I can conclude at this point is that this crash was not an ordinary accident. It was providential. Because I know that the True Parents are truly the manifestation of God on earth, it is my conviction that Father and Mother had to set a condition to sacrifice their lives on behalf of all the blessed couples who have not been able to accomplish their providential responsibilities. Just like the time when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac as an offering to God, God accepted Abraham's condition as a genuine one and saved Isaac's life. By going through the crash, God already accepted the condition set by True Parents and gave their lives back to us. I firmly believe that because of this providential helicopter accident, the providence will make a quantum leap and move on towards a higher dimension for the realization of God's ideal.
Even today I went through a physical therapy twice to cure my back pain. It has become my routine since I was discharged from the hospital a few days ago. I also went to see a Chinese herb medicine doctor today. Lying on a hospital bed with dozens of acupuncture needles in me, I shed tears of "Thanks to God and True Parents."
July 29, 2008
Peter H. Kim