Part 2 of 3
LAYTON - Hartt Wixom wants to make sure no one forget the miracles.
The author, who with his wife Judene co-wrote the book “When Angels Intervene to Save the Children” about the 1986 Cokeville hostage crisis, had children who were involved in the incident. He and his wife were both on hand during the recent filming of T.C. Christensen’s new movie, based on the Wixoms’ book, both of which touch on many of the miraculous incidents experienced by the students and teachers during the crisis.
“It was a spiritual experience for everybody,” said Hartt Wixom, talking about the hostage crisis. “The children were saying ‘Mommy and Daddy, the angels saved us.’ People said ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ but the kids said that they literally had angels come to them and tell them when the bomb was going to go off and to be ready.”
Christensen, who directed “17 Miracles” and “Ephraim’s Crossing,” filmed portions of “Cokeville Miracle” in Layton earlier this month. He said that the thing that first drew him to the story was the fact that the bomber and his wife took an entire elementary school full of teachers and students hostage, but somehow the two were the only ones who were killed when the bomb went off.
“It’s all about protection and ancestors watching over their loved ones,” said Christensen. “I didn’t make any of it up. These are all things that the witnesses and survivors said.”
Jennie Sorenson Johnson, who was on hand to watch the filming, was only in first grade when she and her classmates were taken hostage. She remembers a woman grabbing her hand and helping her out of the building when the bomb it, though at the time she didn’t think it was odd when the woman disappeared.
“When I was in fifth grade, I was looking through old photo albums and said ‘That’s the lady who helped me out,’” said Johnson. “My grandmother said, ‘No, that’s my great aunt. She wasn’t there.’”
Wixom’s son Kamron was another one of the hostages, and a shot of Judene embracing him after he escaped the building became one of the iconic images of the event. The couple first wrote “Trial By Terror” about their experiences, later collecting stories from other survivors and witnesses to write “When Angels Intervene to Save the Children.”
“We saw it as a message that had to be told,” said Wixom.
The book was optioned for the 1994 TV movie “To Save the Children,” and when that movie was being made producers sent the Wixoms a copy of the script. Not only did it eliminate any aspect of the miraculous, but Wixom also said that it portrayed the teachers as being cowards.
“We called them and said ‘If you insist on doing it this way, remove our names from the picture,’” said Wixom. “Instead, they sent a different writer out to us who re-wrote the whole script.”
Still, he’s more confident in Christensen’s portrayal of what happened.
“We’re happy T.C. is making this with the same spiritual message he’s put into his other movies,” said Wixom. “It needs to be done with sensitivity and respect, which we’re sure T.C. can do.”