WWII vet recounts days in Harnett woods: 'I didn't go down there to get lost'
Posted October 9, 2015 3:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2015 7:12 p.m. EDT
Coats, N.C. — Lloyd Hall tries to keep busy on weekends, so he hopped in his truck on Sept. 27 and drove down to some woods on his Harnett County property. He had been having some trouble with loggers he felt were taking trees off his land, and he wanted to check the property line.
"I like to get out and walk around a little bit," the 88-year-old widower said Friday while sitting in his Coats home. "I didn't go down there to get lost."
But once in the woods, Hall, who is legally blind and wears two hearing aids, did get lost.
"I got disoriented," he said. "The more I walked, the more lost I got."
Hall spent that Sunday night sitting against an oak tree, occasionally hollering for help.
No help came then, however, or Monday. He said he heard sirens and saw flood lights in the distance but couldn't find his way to them through the thick brush. A neighbor's dog was the only creature that found him, and it kept him company for a couple of days.
"I said, 'Little lady, don't you know the way back home?' She looked around, and she knew the way back home, but she didn't make no noise," he said.
Hall said he tried to see if he recognized anything in the woods that would give him clues to finding his way out. Instead, he tripped over logs so often that his feet and his legs still hurt.
"It's rough as pig iron out there," he said.
Still, he wasn't ready to give up.
"I was strong and determined that, when daylight gets here, I'll find my way out," he said.
After another day in the woods, he thought his ordeal was over on Tuesday night when he saw a State Highway Patrol helicopter flying overhead.
"He stopped right over me, and I was waving a white handkerchief – that was the only thing I had – and the dog was walking around," he said. "I was telling him, 'You're right over me. You're right over me.' And he was. He was just above the trees."
But the troopers in the helicopter and rescuers on the ground didn't see him, and Hall spent another night in the woods, his determination slowly slipping away.
By Wednesday, he said, he had given up hope of making it out alive, so he sat down in a dry creek bed, said a prayer and went to sleep.
"I was just so tired that I gave up," he said. "I was at peace. I asked God if it's my time, to just let me go to sleep and let me go easy."
Instead, he was awakened by a search team from the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, part of an army of area law enforcement officers, family members and friends who had been searching for Hall for days. The rescuers brought him food, water and medications.
"I opened my eyes, and there they were, and I just cried like a baby," he said, comparing the experience with getting out of World War II alive. "I didn't have no business in the woods to start with."
Hall was checked out at a local hospital – he didn't even spend one night there – and has been recuperating at home for the past nine days. His daughter said he wanted to get home that night to make a fried egg sandwich for himself.