Boy Scouts Brave Flood, Tornado, Lightning

'Like Putting Them on an Airplane'

"It's the same way you feel when a child gets their license and starts driving on their own or when you put them on an airplane to go somewhere," Lai said. "You have all the reflections you normally have."

"But, I have faith in them," she said.

Much of that faith Lai attributes to the Boys Scouts, which were founded by 20th century British Army officer Robert Baden-Powell. While stationed in India, he discovered that his men did not know first aid or basic outdoor survival. So he wrote a handbook highlighting resourcefulness, adaptability and leadership and formed the first troop in 1907.

Charles Bowerman of Council Bluffs, Iowa, joined the Scouts as a Cub, but was put to the test this summer as a 16-year-old Eagle Scout. He helped his fellow campers survive the tornado at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa.

The doors and roof of their meeting house were ripped off as it was pummeled by 100-foot trees and its stone walls and chimney caved in on top of the Scouts.

"Some said they heard a train, but I didn't hear anything." he told "I didn't believe we were going to be hit, but I knew the drill. Get into shelter. I was in the back of the room saying, 'Don't panic,' and making sure everyone got under the table."

Charles was the last to dive under the table and sustained a gash in his head and some other minor bruises. The tornado pushed him off the foundation and onto the grass 10 feet from where he started.

"I didn't hear anything. I just saw the gray," said Charles, whose close friend died in the disaster.

"For a century, Scouts have been the ones responding and helping others in their disasters," he told "This was the first time we had to turn to help ourselves."

Only two weeks after the Iowa tornado hit, Charles went to a different Boy Scout camp in Nebraska and had another close call when hurricane-force winds hit the site.

"At a couple of points, as it blew through our tents, another boy in the troop and I freaked out a little," he said. "But everybody's been fine after that."

Second Camp Out to Defy Weather

"Our going to Camp Cedars was our way of telling the weather to stick it," Charles said wryly.

Not one of the boys who experienced the tornado dropped out of the council, he said.

His mother, though, was anxious when her son was ready to camp again. "Part of her wanted me to stay home, but she wasn't against me going," he said. "There was nervousness, but that's understandable."

But she soon relented.

"He was prepared," Theresa Bowerman, 42, told "They were trained how to handle it. Every single boy from group said they were all glad it hit there. They knew what to do."

A week after the disaster, her 11-year-old daughter was scheduled to go to a church camp just north of the tornado site. "If it had hit that church camp, would they have been prepared?" she asked. "Could the leadership have handled it?"

Meanwhile, as Bridget Lai and Eileen Muench wait for their husbands and sons to return from the Grand Canyon, they have no regrets about agreeing to the Boy Scout trek.

"This is what it's all about," Lai said. "They have to grow up and, unfortunately, the trip got cut short. But they are all OK and hopefully they relied on each other and learned a lot from the experience and want to go on another adventure."

Muench said all her fear evaporated when she got the 1 a.m. call from her son early Monday that he had been lifted out in a Black Hawk helicopter.

"Mom, it was so cool," Colin gushed.

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