A mountain, a Storm, a Heart Breaking Moment of Terror

Sandias and Scattered Storms
Sandias and Scattered Storms

After a few hours exploring Santa Fe, we boarded the Rail Runner Express and headed back to Albuquerque. We got there in time to head to the Sandia Tram. The tram takes passengers almost three miles up to the top of the Sandia Peak. My Aunt had plans for us to watch the sun set from atop the mountain.That didn’t quite work out.

All day long, just like the day before, we’d been watching scattered thunderstorms marching across the desert. As we approached the Sandia Tramway station, the clouds and the rain continued to run around. It was about ninety degrees at the foot of the mountain. A digital thermometer in the station told us it was only forty-seven degrees at the top of the mountain!


The Boy on the tram. He looks a bit thrilled and a bit terrified!
The Boy on the tram. He looks a bit thrilled and a bit terrified!

The Tramway consists of two cable cars suspended hundreds of feet above the mountain side. It’s supported by two massive towers.


The sixteen minute ride is narrated by the tram operator. Riding in the tram and looking down, it was difficult for me to get any sense of scale… until the operator drew our attention to the “shrubs” below us. They were actually 150-foot tall ponderosa pines!


At the peak, it was cold and rainy. We got out at the upper terminal and were glad we brought our jackets. The Boy and I remembered how hot we were at Whitesands, and the rain felt kind of good! We were able to watch the storms move around us. Soon, a storm cloud parked over the peak and stayed there. It was storming like a Michigan autumn gale!


It was lightening and blowing so hard, they shut the tram down. We were stuck. Luckily, the High Finance Restaurant and Tavern was a short walk away! It’s the United States’ highest operating restaurant. So we had a snack and some hot cocoa while we waited out the storm.

Albuquerque through the storm that enveloped the Sandia Peak.

The storm lasted longer than our snack, so we left the restaurant and went to the terminal. There were several dozen people waiting, and we knew there were more in the restaurant. My Aunt went to the restroom, and I found a seat.

Suddenly, from the subdued murmur of the crowd, a man’s desperate voice boomed out: “Breathe, buddy!”

The terminal was silenced. A terrified dad walked through the building, gently bouncing a limp little boy in his arms. My Boy and I could see his face, ashen, eyes closed, lax jawed. The father took the child outside in the cold rain.

The crowd came alive.

”Turn him upside down!”

”Hit his back!”



”We need a medic!”

My Aunt works in a hospital. I knew she’d know what to do. But she was still in the restroom. I put my hands over my mouth and prayed. My Boy got scared and went outside. He didn’t want to see this little boy die.

The terminal attendant, alerted by the yelling, ran to see what was going on, then ran even faster back to his office. He screamed into the public address microphone ”Joe! GET IN HERE!! NOW!!”

‘Joe’ the tram operator rushed in and got the tram going. The little boy and his dad got inside and went down the mountain. We were later told that the wind was so violent, that the tram had rocked into both towers!

After the tram left, the attendant announced that the little boy had started breathing on the tram. There would be an ambulance waiting for him. I never heard any more about him.

My Boy came back inside. I grabbed him and hugged him, and started crying. That was the scariest thing I’d seen. Ever.

The Boy and I had been spending almost every hour together. We slept together, rode together, ate together. We were getting sick of each other. I knew I had been a little impatient with him in the last few days. That changed after the Sandia near-tragedy.

A few days later, The Boy spilled some Dr. Pepper in the car. Just a little bit. He apologized, expecting me to bicker at him. “It’s no big deal,” I told him. “It’s not like you quit breathing.”


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