OPINION: Why I believe in miracles
THE story this week about the rescue of young Luke Shambrook after five days lost in the Victorian bush took me back to the biggest story I have ever covered as a journalist.
I was a young TV reporter working in Cairns when I heard that a two-year-old child had gone missing in Cooktown.
Eric Taylor, clad only in a diaper and undershirt, had wandered off from his family's farm into heavily-wooded terrain. It was no ordinary country he'd walked into, it was infested with wild pigs, giant snakes and the nearby river was home to huge crocodiles.
When they failed to find him after day one I went to Cooktown with a cameraman to report on the search.
Local police Sgt Ken Salmon was co-ordinating the effort and after just 24 hours he had assembled a giant search party of more than 300 volunteers including veteran black trackers.
Sgt Salmon quietly told me that because Eric was so small and they hadn't found him in the first day he feared he'd tumbled into the crocodile-infested Tannon River, which flowed near his home.
Police divers had been called in to scour the river and searchers with shotguns were standing guard over them as they risked their lives looking for young Eric's body.
After four days the search was scaled back and the camp where volunteers had assembled became sombre as most knew they were now looking for a body.
But a miracle happened in Cooktown on July 19, 1988 when a teenage volunteer who had travelled over from Weipa told his search partner he could hear a child crying. He went against strict search protocols and broke ranks from the grid team and scrambled up over a rocky outcrop.
As he peered over the last rock he couldn't believe his eyes. There in front of him was Eric Taylor, naked, dirty, covered in insect bites and crying.
The tenacious youngster had beaten all the odds and survived by eating insects and sucking wet foliage.
When they brought him back to camp the volunteers made two lines and cheered him home. There was not a dry eye.
From that day to today I have always believed that miracles can happen and we should never give up hope.