Guest Column

‘Cokeville Miracle’ deserving of national memorial recognition?

By Sharon R. Dayton
Posted 8/18/22

There is much about Wyoming that our visitors adore. Lots of room, peace and quiet — good neighbors, and a great heritage. We’re one of the smallest states in the union — but a …

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Guest Column

‘Cokeville Miracle’ deserving of national memorial recognition?


There is much about Wyoming that our visitors adore. Lots of room, peace and quiet — good neighbors, and a great heritage. We’re one of the smallest states in the union — but a state of solid citizens. One of the most significant ingredients in this character is a belief in God and one of the most compelling types of evidence for that belief is the “Cokeville Miracle.”

Recently, I have contacted our national senators and representatives with a proposal that we share our faith by promoting and creating a national memorial remembering that event. To those not familiar with the Cokeville Miracle, it was an event that took place in Cokeville in 1985, where a perpetrator took 155 school children with their teaching staff and visitors hostage. He forced them into one small classroom and demanded a $2 million per child ransom. The perpetrator years earlier had secured the job of local constable in Cokeville and during his work became acquainted with the town and townspeople. Impressed in his mind was that the children were bright and accomplished and that their parents would do anything for them!

He was college educated and an original thinker. He attracted the confidence of fellow workers. When he told several of them he was working on a plan that would have them flying their own jets, they were intrigued and supportive. One committed a thousand dollars and another $100 per month while he worked out the details. When the details of the plan were worked out, he gathered the three men and explained his plan. Once the plan was on the table — there were no takers? To make sure they wouldn’t reveal his plan, by gunpoint he handcuffed them to the back seat in the utility van. Only the wife and daughter remained. The daughter escaped to warn the officers at the town hall. The remaining pair entered the school and gathered all the children, teachers, and visitors into a small 30x30-foot school room holding them hostage.

The school principal was tasked with communicating the demands and responses. The hostages in the room were made miserable by the fumes of leaking gasoline containers forming part of the bomb. The teachers tried to occupy the children’s minds with activities — TV, books, toys, games, while the clock ticked. The perpetrators had designed a bomb like the one detonated in the Oklahoma City federal housing building that killed over 300 people. He threatened to start shooting children if rescue attempts were made.

The children had been taught to pray in their families. The older class, in the presence of the perpetrator, joined for a prayer for deliverance. Deliverance came in a dramatic way. The bomb’s trigger consisted of pulling a cord tied around the wrist of the perpetrator and connected to the trigger of the bomb. For a moment, the hostage taker stepped away and tied the trigger cord to his wife’s wrist. The discomfort of the event, the hot classroom, and smell of the escaping gasoline fumes affected all the teachers. One raised her hand to get the wife’s attention, the wife did likewise — pulling the bomb’s trigger.

Boom! The trigger was pulled and a fiery explosion filled the room with fire and black smoke. It is estimated that the escape from the room took only 45 seconds — the heat was great enough to set clothes and hair on fire and explode scattered firearm cartridges sending shrapnel into the walls. The hostages escaped to safety outside.

The explosion set the wife on fire and brought the husband out the door with a pistol in hand. He found his flaming, helpless wife and shot her. Realizing what was facing him — he took his own life.

Parents and public safety officials were outside of the school when the bomb was detonated. They went to work, identifying children,triaging injuries and providing comfort. Ambulances from surrounding areas had been prepared to take the victims to local hospitals. Nearly 80 victims were treated in area hospitals overnight for smoke inhalation and burns— most returning to their homes the next day.

Weeks later, as interviewers and counselors worked with the children,stories began to emerge. Children talked about other people, dressed in white, who were in the room with them. These angels provided warnings, gave specific instructions and provided comfort. The children later identified these visitors in old photograph books. In every case, the angels were ancestors who had passed on. The implications of these experiences are amazing! Eternal family connections, the utility of prayer and heaven’s answers— and the responsibility we have for our own lives.

I have written our state representatives requesting that they initiate legislation to create a national monument at Cokeville remembering the event and reminding a nation of heaven’s willingness to assist us. We have important remembrances of great leaders and events in the neighboring state — Mt. Rushmore and Custer’s Battlefield, and now this magnificent event in Wyoming — all worthy of memorializing.

What can you do to continue the memory of such an event? Encourage our national representatives to initiate legislation for the creation of a Wyoming state memorial. Become acquainted with the movie “The Cokeville Miracle” of the book, “When Angels Intervene to Save the Children.” The Cokeville Miracle Foundation has also published a historical record, “Witnesss to a Miracle.” Financial support can be sent to the Cokeville Miracle Foundation, c/o Mr. Sharon Dayton, P.O. Box 248, Cokeville, WY 83114.


(Cokeville Miracle Foundation is a local non-profit enhancing the community’s quality of life.)

Guest Column