Acrophobia

By Jerry D. Haight


The view from the gigantic bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway just east of Montreal

is nothing short of absolutely spectacular. Our trip over the suspension occurred on a perfect cloudless day with unlimited visibility. The bright sun highlighted the deep emerald blue of both the seaway below and that of the sky.  The sea was glassy smooth and only mildly disturbed by tiny ships as they left white contrails of their wakes. Some headed eastward to the Atlantic and others pointed their bow westward to the great lakes. All sizes of fishing boats heading for their secret fishing places appeared as mere specs on the water as they trailed white thread like wakes.


The magnificent skyline of downtown Montreal grew ever larger in the distance. Phyllis, Misty and I were in our motorhome towing a van, about 65 feet of RV in all. Our lane was in the extreme right hand lane of the bridge and perhaps two feet from disaster for if there were any guard rail at all, it might have reached the height of the bottom of our hub cap. I, with a huge grin on my face, pointed to a small island “way over there”, and with that I got a predictable nervious response from the passenger seat “keep your eyes on the road”, she said.


A short while before, we traveled north on highway 15 from New York, then to Highway10 that would lead us over the St. Lawrence Seaway and on to The Trans-Canadian Highway to Ottawa.  As we rounded the cloverleaf to the right to join highway 10 traffic slowed to a crawl. We would soon learn of an accident on the bridge, the cause of the delay. We also learned that only one lane was available; the one on the extreme right, next to disaster.  As we began the steep ascension up the bridge, my thoughts were of a similar precipitous climb about twenty years ago,  a time, we were in Glacier Park Montana, heading up the Highway to the Sun.


Phyllis, our son Vince, daughter Roberta and I were visiting Glacier Park on another gorgeous a day. We decided to head east over The Highway to the Sun via Logan Pass and then on to East Glacier. That precipitous highway is one lane in each direction, restricted to vehicles of eight feet or less and very few provisions for passing. I drove the first three quarters of a mile east bound becoming steadily more nervous as the road snuggled the mountain on the left and on the right a precarious drop off became ever steeper and deeper as the road inclined.     

The word Acrophobia comes from the Greek word meaning “summit” and is an extreme and irrational fear of heights. Acrophobia can be very dangerous as sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get themselves down safely. Typical of such attacks, I began to sense an growing fear as we went higher and higher. Then a purely terrifying feeling of panic set in with trembling, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea and dizziness. Many say panic attacks are among the most frightening experiences of their lives. While I can not attest to that, I certainly could not drive our car and had to have Vince take over for me. That would not be my last episode of Acrophobia.

That February before, Phyllis and I placed our order for our motorhome and began making preparations for our shake-down cruise from Washington state to Connecticut and our return via Montreal, Ottawa, North Bay, then through Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and back to Washington.  It was also in that same February a couple of friends invited us to go for a ride with them. Our destination was a butte south of Spokane Washington called Steptoe. We enjoyed the ride but as we wound our way up Steptoe Butte, an old familiar sense of panic overcame me. After enduring it as long as possible, I asked Jack, our friend, to stop and I got out and walked the rest of the way to the top of the butte. On the way down from Steptoe I was thinking of the experience when a voice Whom I’ve come to recognize, spoke and simply said “I have healed you”. I whispered a brief prayer of thanks and thought little more about the incident thereafter. It would be several months later that I would remember those words.

On the way up the bridge over the St. Lawrence, I thought about His words and the previous times when the symptoms of panic would appear.  This time there was no anxiety, panic or fear. This time I was thoroughly enjoying the magnificent view from this fantastic vantage point.

I didn’t know it then, but within the year our travels would take us to the edge of Bryce and Yellowstone Canyon where we would walk to the very edge, look over and marvel at the views below. We would find ourselves way out over a cliff on a metal grated platform at the top of the Teton mountains viewing Jackson, Jenny and Jackson Lake, Jackson Airport and a landscape that spanned over 75 miles.  Our travels would take us on a walk out onto the suspension bridge crossing the Royal Gorge and I would lean over the rail to take a picture of a train traveling up the canyon over a thousand feet below. And even more wonderful, we drove to the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park with precipitous drop offs on both sides.

Because God uttered four magnificent words in February 2005, I now travel fearlessly to high places to see nature’s His handiwork from a vantage point available to the eagles. I am free from acrophobia.

    





 

 




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