Looking back on the many Christmases of my lifetime, one in particular stands apart from the others. Other Christmases were certainly memorable but none more so than that harrowing and terrifying day in 1983. On that day, my understanding of Jesus: Emmanuel, was forever changed.
It was Christmastime and my four-year-old son, Marc, and I were having an afternoon of shopping. It was just the two of us on this December day because his older sister, Cara, was at church for choir practice.
After lunch at the department store restaurant, we headed downstairs. Marc stepped onto the escalator first and I followed. Suddenly, the calm was shattered when he screamed—a terrified scream. “Mama! My foot!”
His right foot had become wedged between the side of the moving step and the sidewall of the escalator, twisting his foot 180 degrees. His body suddenly wrenched awkwardly toward me. The escalator continued downward.
In the panic of the moment, the looming danger at the bottom of the escalator flashed before me—the metal teeth at the bottom—thoughts of his foot being mangled.
I heard a vaguely familiar but extremely loud voice (mine), yelling, “Turn off the escalator! Turn off the escalator!” The escalator relentlessly continued downward.
“Help!” I screamed. And then, “Oh, dear God, help us!”
A flurry of activity began at the base of the escalator. Then finally the escalator stopped! Someone had pressed an emergency button at the base of the handrail. Thank You, Father, I prayed.
I bent down to get a better look at Marc’s foot. A chill raced up my spine when I saw the tiny space in which his foot was wedged—no more than a quarter of an inch. All I could see of his foot was his heel; the rest had disappeared in the jaws of the machine. I pulled on his leg—he screamed in agony.
“Someone, call the fire department!” I shouted.
“Mama, pray!” Marc said. I drew him close and prayed.
“I want Daddy,” he cried.
I shouted our phone number into midair. “Someone! Call my husband!”
Time stood still. Dark images of wheelchairs and crutches crept into my mind. I searched for a Bible verse to hold onto. Romans 8:28 came to mind: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I repeated it over and over.
Marc looked up at me and said, “My bones feel broken and bleedy.”
Hearing this, I felt the blood drain from my head. Dark edges crowded my vision. Silently, I prayed, “Lord, I can’t faint! Please! Marc needs me. Help me. Where are You? Where are You?”
At that moment, I felt warm, soft arms enfolding me from behind. A woman’s soothing voice said quietly in my ear: “Jesus is here, Jesus is here.” I felt a shiver.
The woman had come down the escalator and sat on the step above mine. As I cradled Marc in my arms, she cradled me, and gently rocked me from side to side. Since I was facing away from her, I couldn’t see her, but I noticed she was wearing blue polyester slacks.
“Tell your son his foot is alright.” She whispered in my ear. There was an assurance in her voice.
I hesitated for an instant, but I said, “Marc, your foot is alright.” I tried to say it with the same calm voice.
Marc continued crying in pain.
Again, in my ear, she said: “Tell him you’ll buy him new shoes—whatever he wants.”
“Marc,” I said, “I’m going to buy you brand new shoes—whatever you want.”
He looked up, “Cowboy boots? Like Daddy’s?”
We were talking about new shoes for two healthy feet! I felt a surge of hope.
Once again, the kind voice whispered to me: “Tell Marc there are no broken bones.”
I did as she said.
Finally, the firemen arrived. As they surveyed the situation, I heard one of them say under his breath, “Oh, no.” With a man on either side of Marc, they used crowbars to pry the step away from the escalator wall, freeing his foot at last. His shoe was gone and his sock was shredded. It took all my courage to watch them pull off his sock. Marc’s small foot was bruised and heavily blistered, but it was whole.
I turned around to share my elation with the wonderful woman who had helped me, but all I saw was a glimpse of her leg at the top of the stairs. Without another word; without waiting to see about Marc’s foot, she was gone. I never even saw her face.
My husband, Craig, arrived just as the firemen set Marc on the floor at the bottom of the escalator. They asked Marc to wiggle his toes, and he was able to—a very good sign. A short time later at the emergency room, X-rays confirmed that not one bone was broken.
To this day, I know nothing more of the woman who seemed to come from nowhere to give me a message of hope. She came at a moment of astonishing need, and answered my desperate plea to God: “Where are You?”
“Jesus is here,” she answered, “Jesus is here.”
Over the years, I’ve wondered if she was an angel sent from God. I don’t know for certain, but I know she was heaven-sent.
She brought a message of joy as old as Christmas itself: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel” (which means God with us) (Matt. 1:23).
Whatever the season, whatever the challenge, whatever the circumstance life brings, we have reason to rejoice.
Emmanuel. “Jesus is here.”
Laura Z. Sowers
Laura Z. Sowers is a Christian woman, a wife to Craig, a mother of two children (one of which is the owner of this website), and a grandmother of eight. During her writing career, she wrote two non-fiction Christian books published by Broadman and Holman. She also worked as a developmental editor for other Christian authors. Now retired, she enjoys her family, abstract watercolor painting, reading, and traveling with her husband, and their Shih Tzu, Murphy.