Surviving a lightning strike.

Notes from different corners of the world.
June 6 2005 7:24 AM

Don't Stand By Me

Surviving a lightning strike.

(Continued from Page 1)

Marshburn says he and his wife have talked 15 survivors out of suicide and helped save several marriages. Unbeknownst to the couple, their own marriage was a cause for celebration at the conference. A surprise renewal-of-vows ceremony, timed to the Marshburns' 40th anniversary, took place Saturday night, with the entire family of survivors in attendance and a robed judge officiating. * Everyone was asked to sing along with the boombox to the chorus of a Marshburn family favorite, Alabama's "Angels Among Us."

That song, about the divine hands that intercede on our behalf, poses a theological question—Why me?—that torments surprisingly few victims of this most freakish act of nature. The survivors I spoke with almost all told me the same thing: Their accidents were somehow part of a divine master plan. If so, what were we to make of the violent thunderstorms and dazzling lightning shows that lit up Pigeon Forge all three days of the conference? I asked LeDoux about this, and also about what he thought of the remarkable coincidence that Tennessee Electric had decided to host a conference on the same days in the same hotel as the lightning-strike survivors. He didn't think much of either oddity. In the scheme of things, he said, they just weren't that improbable.

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* Correction, June 13, 2005: The article originally stated that the officiant at the renewal-of-vows ceremony was a justice of the peace. In fact, he was a judge. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.

In addition to being the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, Joshua Foer is the author of Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which grew out of a story he wrote for Slate.