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Faith Far Beneath the Surface

For 65 hours after the quake hit Haiti, this young American aid worker was trapped beneath a collapsed hotel. Here's his survival story, one year later.

By Daniel Woolley, Colorado Springs, Colorado

As appeared in

I didn’t believe it until I heard the thrum of jackhammers and power saws. Around midnight, Jim shouted, “Dan! We’re free! You’re next!” This is it! I thought. An hour passed. Then two. Things got quiet again. I banged on the wall. No response.

My phone said 3:30 a.m. The rescuers were gone. They weren’t coming for me. I’m going to die here, and there’s nothing I can do.

Then a thought came into my mind. Worship me. I began singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I choked on the chorus, “Morning by morning, new mercies I see.” Next I sang “Be Still, My Soul.” After that, another song.

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Old hymns. Praise songs. Songs I loved, reaching out to the only one who knew exactly where I was. I lost track of time. I felt God’s presence stronger than I ever had. I heard his voice whisper, Trust me, with everything.

Finally I did. I let it all go. The fear of dying here. The financial stress. The worries about Christy and the kids. I knew God would take care of them. Let your will be done, Lord, I prayed, whether that means rescue or death.

“Hello! Is anybody down there?”

“Yes!” I shouted. “I’m here!”

A few hours later, a team of rescuers from Fairfax, Virginia, came down the twisted elevator shaft and hoisted me and the hotel worker in the car next to mine to safety. I was flown to Miami and admitted to a hospital at 4:53 p.m., exactly three days after the earthquake. It felt more like three years.

Christy was there. She’d never looked more beautiful. We kissed, and all the pain faded. “I thought you were dead,” she said, trying to hold back the tears. “I thought I was too,” I whispered.

I would have been, if it weren’t for the things I had with me in that dark place–faith most of all. A faith that was more alive now than ever.

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