Remembering James Kim

I didn’t know James Kim. In fact, I didn’t know anything about him until a few days after Thanksgiving, 2006, when he and his family, a wife and two daughters, were reported missing somewhere between Portland, OR and their home in San Francisco.

It was everywhere on the news in the Bay Area, and especially around Silicon Valley tech companies back in the days when I still worked in tech. He was local. He worked as a technology analyst. He was one of us. And he had disappeared.

All it took was one missed turn and a bad decision to continue on a secondary route. And then, when the weather continued to get worse, they made another, landing them on an unpaved logging road in a blizzard.

They stopped because they were exhausted, and because the snow prevented them from continuing forward. Four days later, on November 30th, the search began. On December 2nd, Kim set out to look for help. On December 4th, a helicopter pilot found Mrs. Kim and the girls thanks to a cell tower ping from Kim’s phone. On December 6th, they finally found Kim, dead of hypothermia, likely the same day his wife and daughters were rescued–8 years ago today.

James Kim was well educated, young (35 at his death), and healthy. His car was new and had won the highest safety awards. And yet…

At the time and after people talked about what he could have done differently. He could have waited in Seattle or Portland unit the bad weather passed. He could have turned the car around to get back on the main road. He could have stayed with the vehicle instead of venturing out into the snow. But for how long?

That year, that holiday season was when, for me, the importance of preparedness really hit home. A few weeks later, my brother and his family travelled from Seattle to San Francisco for Christmas like they do every year. And with James Kim in mind, I created car kits stocked with emergency supplies–flares and food and space blankets and more–for everyone in my immediate family.

This year, with the weather as unpredictable as it is, it may be time to give a few more. Here are some of my favorite winter prep articles to inspire your own holiday giving.


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