SCOUTING AROUND: Former Girl Scouts reconnect, recall lightning incident
An article first seen on the front page of the Cherokee Scout/Clay County Progress in 1967 got a happy ending thanks to National Public Radio’s Missed Connections series.
Linda Walker, formerly Linda Carlson, was a Murphy Girl Scout who was struck by lightning while at a summer camp for Girl Scouts. More than 50 years later, she asked NPR to help her find her buddy, the girl she credits with saving her life.
On the Feb. 4 Weekend Edition Sunday show, Walker was reconnected with Laurie McCoy Luna, who was never told if her buddy survived. They learned they each had told their piece of the story over the years, and Walker was inspired to find Luna by her students.
“Each time I would tell my story, and the kids always said, ‘Well, did you ever thank her?’ And I said, ‘No,’ and they said, ‘You should, you should,’ ” Walker said on the radio show.
On July 27, 1967, the newspaper reported that Walker was struck by lightning the previous Friday while at Camp Pisgah. When the storm started, the girls were sent to their tents, as were the safety standards, according to the representative from the local Girl Scout Council quoted in the report. Lightning hit a tree, then entered the tent and hit Walker.
The other girls ran out of the tent. When Walker’s friend noticed she wasn’t with them, she went back for her.
Counselors performed artificial respiration, then sent her to Transylvania Community Hospital in Brevard. Her father, Douglas Carlson, told the newspaper she had been in serious condition, but was no longer in trouble.
The article mentioned that Lisa Warner, another Murphy Girl Scout, also was in the tent. Now known as Warner Loughlin, she vividly remembers that day.
“There were two cots on either side of the tent,” Loughlin said. “We rolled up one side of the tent so we could all watch the rain that was about to come. Linda was on the cot closest to a dead tree trunk that touched one corner of the tent. And because we were good friends, I laid down beside her – elbow to elbow.
“In split seconds, there was a burning sensation in my legs and a feeling of being thrown by some gigantic force. There was blinding white light, and a feeling like there was a force inside my head that was trying to explode inside.”
The next thing she remembers is being in the hospital. She was released later that day, when camp counselors had her look at the remains of their tent.
“The floorboards were torn up and scorched. Dirt was everywhere. I could smell burning hair and flesh,” Loughlin said. “Revisiting this was traumatic at that young age. I blocked the entire experience from my memory for years after that.”
Like Walker, Loughlin could not remember Luna’s name.
“I was in too bad a shape to remember the other girls there or what they did at the time,” Loughlin said. “Thank goodness she ran to get a counselor. I never knew that until now.”
Loughlin and Walker were next-door neighbors and continued to grow up together in the same Girl Scout troop until graduating from Murphy High School. Both later moved away from town.
Walker is a retired teacher, while Loughlin is an acting coach. Loughlin was happy to hear Walker and Luna reconnected.
“How amazing to connect after all this time,” she said.
On the show, Walker called the experience “magical,” and the former buddies agreed to keep in touch. To listen to the radio broadcast, visit www.npr.org/programs/weekend-edition-sunday/.www.npr.org/programs/weeken....
Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, email@example.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.