james kim

I don’t want to dwell on it any more than I already have been these past few days, but the story of James Kim is one of the saddest things I’ve heard in the last few years. Yes, the stories about what’s going on in Iraq and Darfur are terrible, but this hits a lot closer to home. I think the reason that it resonates with me is because he was a father, and I probably would have done the same thing that he did, if confronted by the same circumstances. He was, by all accounts, a bright guy, and I’m sure that he realized, after being stuck there in the snow for a few days with his wife and young kids, that his leaving to look for help could only increase their chances for survival. Everyone knows that your chances of being found in such situations are much better if you stay put where you are and wait. My guess is that he knew, mathematically speaking, that his chances would be better if he stayed there with them, by the fire. What he probably also knew, however, is that their chances for survival would only go up if he were to leave and look for help. Maybe it’s OCD, but I think about these things all the time, these kind of odd scenarios. I suspect that most fathers do to some extent. At some deep biological level, fathers know that they’re expendable. It’s part of the deal. It’s understood.

The truly sad thing about the James Kim story is that he never got to know that his family had been saved. He was found dead about a mile from the spot where he’d left his family, after having wandered for up to 8 miles through the snow, looking for help in his windbreaker and tennis shoes. (Those searching for him knew that the story wouldn’t have a happy ending when they started finding his clothes. Apparently, in the later stages of hypothermia, people begin to feel very hot and start disrobing. The thought of him persevering through the snow, even after removing his jeans, absolutely breaks my heart. It’s so primal, this motivation to protect one’s family.)

If you get a chance, check out the Metafilter thread. If you can make it through all the “those stupid people should have stuck to more well-traveled roads” comments, there’s some good stuff there. I don’t know if it’s been verified, but one of the rumors is that they were following the route given to them by Yahoo Maps, which, if true, would answer those blaming the Kim family for the situation they found themselves in.

Anyway, my heart goes out to his family. I just hope his kids remember him, and what he went through to bring them help.

[The only thing worse in the last few years, at least for me, was the murder of Bryan Harvey, his wife and daughters, which I found troubling for a similar reason — because I know that Harvey must have tried to have traded his life for those of his wife and daughters. Unfortunately, in that case, there wasn’t a happy ending for anyone involved.]

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11 Comments

  1. ol' e cross
    Posted December 7, 2006 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I was caught off-guard by the primal protective nature of fatherhood. A former detached observer of media, I now find myself sucker-sobbing at Lifetime dramas and Huggies commercials. If I start to talk about this story, I won’t be able to stop.

    So, suffice to say, I feel yah, and if I look at that photo one more time, will start to cry.

    Next topic.

  2. mark
    Posted December 7, 2006 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard a few different versions of the story. According to one, the wife and kids were found by a helicopter hired by the grandparents. According to another, they were found after someone stumbled onto Kim’s trail and followed it back to them. (I suppose both could be true. The helicopter pilot could have see Kim’s trail and followed it back.) If they were found by following his trail back, it makes it all the more tear-worthy. I hope, for his sake, that’s what happened. I hope that they were saved becasue of what he did.

    And, yes, fatherhood is a difficult thing to understand… let alone explain.

  3. kat_m6@yahoo.com
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    My heart broke yesterday when I saw that they had found his body. Too too sad. And sure 20/20 hindsight tells us he could have stayed with his family and been saved, but we all probably would have done the same thing. I had read that they thought he was leaving the clothes as bread crumbs for anybody who might have been looking for him. I think I prefer that explanation. A friend of mine in SF worked with him at TechTeam and then again at CNet – said he was a super nice guy. So sad.

  4. Chubb Sessions
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    This reminds me of the film “Open Water.” A couple of yuppies out of their element. Who in their right mind would travel over a mountain range in winter weather with a seven month-old baby? And without a proper survival kit, no less (Most San Franciscans with common sense keep survival kits at home and in the trunk of their cars in case of earthquakes). And, if this guy was an editor at CNet, you would think that he would know that Mapquest and Yahoo directions ain’t worth shit (there have been plenty of stories in the last year on that subject). Sad, yes, but enough already.

  5. Ted Glass
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I haven’t heard it mentioned, but I bet he left his warmer clothes with his wife and kids too.

    Terribly sad.

  6. DanIzzo
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    As a fellow father, I hear you about thinking about all these scenarios. I also do it all the time. There is some sort of primordial worst case scenario circuit which activates when you produce an offspring. I think having a kid makes you anticipate the worst, so you’re ready if the worst happens.

  7. egpenet
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    I have had several situations where I have reacted in survival mode as a father/husband. Logic goes out the window and adrenaline kicks in … which is not really healthy for your body.

    The latest was a house fire in November 2000, a week beforee Thanksgiving. I simply reacted. I was on automatic. I knew that the fire was alive, that it was a beast to be defeated. I could have lifted the couch all by myself and tossed it out of the door. But I took the one minute to call 911 and then wake everybody up and get’em out of the house.

    Within that one minute the entire room where the couch had been was in flames and the smoke was spreading throughout the house. Seconds later, the Ypsi police arrived and let me grab two things to take out, and to close two doors between us and the fire.

    One minute later the Fire Department arrived and saved the house.

    I know … it’s Christmas … and I’m not an organized religion kind’a guy … but I think cburches are missing out on the BEST part of the Christmas Story … Joseph … what a great guy for caring for Mary, and what a great dad for bringing up that boy! Joseph is MY hero.

  8. egpenet
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Part two …

    After another cigarette … my dad is 85 and had quintuple bypass surgery today in Arizona. With the time shift, he’s just been wheeled into intensive care, so I’m waiting for another hour or so to find out how things went and what the doctors told his wife.

    Surgery was dictated so quickly, I couldn’t get there to be with him, but I told him I loved him last night. Do that for your dads tomorrow. Just call and say it. Sons to fathers. Dads to dads. Think of James Kim … think of the young dads in Iraq … the young dads in military rehab centers … think of the dads in the pictures on the news in Beirut, Palestine, Jerusalem, Baghdad … they’re just like us … and we love them all.

  9. mark
    Posted December 8, 2006 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    And, let’s not forget, Joseph cared for Mary even though she was carrying a child that wasn’t his.

    I hope your dad comes through surgery alright, Ed.

    As for Kim, I was just looking at a map of the route he travelled, and it really is incredible what he pushed himself to do in order to save his family.

  10. Kate
    Posted December 10, 2006 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Calif. man walked 16 miles before dying in Ore. mountains
    12/9/2006, 3:20 p.m. PT
    By TIM FOUGHT
    The Associated Press

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)

  11. mark
    Posted December 10, 2006 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I also heard on the news today that they probably found him just a few hours after he died.

    Terribly sad.

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