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Survivor relives the Cokeville hostage crisis

It’s been three decades since the Cokeville Elementary School hostage crisis, but many remember it like it was yesterday.

“I remember looking up at the American flag and thinking that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in America… and yet it was… and it did,” she said.

At 10 years old Stephanie Frew remembers her class, along with others, being escorted to one classroom, not knowing that the school was about to be at the center of a bomb threat.

“We had been having a lot of fire drills over the last few weeks because, for whatever reason, the fire alarms were going off,” she said.

Frew would find out that this was no drill. Former town marshal David Young and his wife Doris, took 136 children and 18 adults hostage. The couple had a large gasoline-filled device with them. It was attached to David’s wrist.

“I was old enough to get it … to know that whatever you choose to do could have a negative effect on someone else. Someone else’s life could be taken or your own and that you can’t leave.”

After hours in a hot, cramped classroom Frew, her brothers Joshua and Byron Wiscombe and many others began to pray.

“There were many faiths in that room and the answer was the same for us all,” she said.

Frew said Dennis stepped out of the room and left his wife in charge. Shortly after, the bomb was detonated. Frew was just a few feet away from Doris as she was engulfed in flames.

“I remember looking up right as it happened. It was almost like a column of fire and it just went up and mushroomed up at the ceiling,” she said “I remember my name being called in the opposite direction of where she (Doris) was and I remember seeing a hand stretching in toward me and I knew that I was supposed to go the other way.”

Dorris said this was just one of many miracles that students and teachers witnessed. She said one of her close friends said they saw their grandmother that had passed from cancer. Others say they simply saw angels. Frew said these miracles could explain why students and teachers were spared. David Young shot his wife, then himself. All the hostages escaped, though 79 were hospitalized with burns and other injuries.

Remember Films and Excel Entertainment Group recorded these accounts in the movie “The Cokeville Miracle.” The film is showing at the Edwards Grand Teton Theater in Ammon and will run for a least another week.

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