Blizzard Rescuer Returns Home

By: Katherine Cook Email
By: Katherine Cook Email

On a cold, windy, Sunday afternoon, John Schafer shoveled 2 weeks' worth of snow from in front of his Woodland Park home. When that snow fell, Schafer had been busy digging people out of snow in Southeast Colorado.
"We went out there and rescued a family of 6 stranded in their car," said Schafer. "They'd been there for a day-and-a-half... and that was just the beginning."
A Master Sergeant, Schafer was one of the first Colorado Army National Guardsman to respond to the blizzard-torn Southeast. He arrived December 28th, and spent the first 38 straight hours helping people from behind the wheel of a snowcat.
"There was panicking, people calling the sheriff's office saying 'we need help, we need to be dug out!'"
Schafer says people worried they would run out of food, heat and hope, but getting to them wasn't easy.
"We ran into 60 to 70 mile-per-hour winds that ripped the locks off doors and the ice out there was so bad, even my snowcat was spinning 360's."
But Schafer reached those in need along with their animals-- he even delivered a still-born calf to save its mother.
"To save a cow is to save its owner about $5,000."
Multiply that by 150-- the number of cattle an 88-year-old farmer told Schafer he thought he'd lost. Schafer went out to give them hay and brought back good news.
"I told him all his cows were still alive, and when you have someone that strong break down and start to cry because you just saved their livelihood... it's a moment I'll never forget."
Schafer also helped a pregnant woman, a man with a broken hip and another man with failing kidneys get to the hospital. In all, about 90 Colorado Army National Guardsmen responded to Southeast Colorado.

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