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09.02.2013

Signposts (part 5)

"Can you tell me what became of …?" I asked and pointed with my chin at the rubble
on the model.

"It had been raining for almost a month. Just like recently." He smiled fleetingly.

"Today we know that the mountain consists of several layers of rock. One is extremely porous and intermixed with sand. It practically turned into mud and began floating downwards, carrying the rockier sheets with it. Fifty million tons of rubble. Goldau was wiped out as well as three hamlets. When the slide reached the lake, it caused a twenty-metre flood wave. They didn't stand a chance. There were very few survivors."

"How terrible."

He led me to a small showcase, no more than a glass-covered picture frame protecting a thin cushion. Embedded in the white material were some coins, a comb, a snuffbox and a golden plait of hair.

"This is the exhibit which initiated the museum. Even today we find belongings of the victims. They have always been honoured. After all, there are few places where the dead and the living are so close together," he explained.

"You mean, they weren't recovered? They are still lying there?" I asked.

"It was the 19th century. There simply weren't the means to try and find the bodies. The survivors had enough to do keeping going themselves."

"I understand."

Indicating the showcase he went on, "The plait belonged to a little girl who was completely crushed by the rocks."

I thought I recognised the hair colour. My eyes filled with tears again. The man laid a comforting hand around my shoulders.

That was when I understood. "You've seen her too?"

"Yes. I was a teenager and went 'into the mushrooms', as we call it, with my father. It had been a wet summer that had spawned myriads of boletuses and chanterelles. We locals know that the site is dangerous but Father and I were carried away. Such good mushroom years are rare and especially boletuses are a delicacy. Anyway, Susie saved us."

"You know her name, then?"

"We know all the victims' names, even their age, professions and much more from the so called 'debris book'. But as far as we know, Susie is the only one keeping an eye on careless hikers."

I stretched out my hand and caressed the glass of the case. "Your old people are probably right. She's better than any signpost."

Picture: Clip Art Gallery

Interested? here's the link to the Bergsturz Museum in Arth Goldau. The area is popular with hikers and the animal park is famous.

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