Lowe wanted to leave Forks, but Chevall thought that now that he’d said they were camping, it would look suspicious if they didn’t. He navigated Bertha around the trucks in the lot and turned north on Highway 101. The line of vehicles followed them out. As Chevall drove through town, people in trucks poised at street corners flipped the bus off, and, Lowe says, one driver held a rifle out his window. She quipped that she felt bad for anyone trying to mess with this town. Chevall remained silent, guiding Bertha tensely. Neither wanted to worry his mom in the back.
Once the bus turned onto the A Road, the caravan disappeared. Chevall turned onto a smaller logging road, crossed a bridge, and slowed into a pullout littered with tent poles and old workout equipment. The family tumbled out to clean up the site and pitch their tent.
Lowe heard guns firing in five-round bursts but dismissed it as someone shooting at a range. Then, a bunch of ATVs sped by and skidded sideways near Bertha, sending gravel shooting toward the bus and pelting Chevall’s pant leg. They decided to leave. As they dismantled the tent, they heard a chain saw, close, echoing around them. Chevall drove back to the bridge they had crossed to see if they could get cell service and to scout new camping locations. On the far side, a thicket of cut tree trunks and branches blocked the road, and behind the barricade there was a gathering of cars and trucks. The innocent explanations they had held onto withered: This was about them, and maybe something more.
“That was the first time that Tyrone started to feel like maybe it was about race,” Lowe told me. “At that point, I still wasn’t. I’m a white girl from the Midwest, and I feel like out here in Washington people are a lot more open-minded. I guess I wasn’t ready to let go of my fairy tale.”
With no clear plan on how to get out, Chevall turned Bertha around on the skinny road and headed up the mountain, hoping to get cell service at a break in the trees. Shannon’s daughter penned a journal entry that began, “If I’m dead and you just found this …” Sondra kept dialing 911, trying to get a signal. Finally, she got through. Chevall told the dispatcher that their bus was barricaded in the woods and lost, and the dispatcher told them to meet deputies at the downed trees.
Careening back to the bridge, Chevall parked at the span’s edge and told his mom to lock the bus and not to come after them, no matter what. Hands trembling, Lowe grabbed her Canon camera. She and Chevall tentatively treaded across the bridge as Lowe snapped photos of the people and cars still hanging around, for evidence. She pleaded with Chevall to stay behind her. “I’m 43 and I’ve lived a pretty good life, and if this is what I go down over, I felt like that’s fine,” she said, beginning to cry. “But I didn’t want it to be the end for Tyrone.”
She heard someone call out, “They have a camera.” Engines roared, and cars peeled out. “I think at that point they had lost their nerve,” she says. Heading back to their bus to await law enforcement’s arrival, they heard another round of gunfire. Chevall said, “Well, I can see how this feels like Rambo.”
Finally, an officer and sheriff’s deputy arrived and asked four gawking teens who had driven up as the others were leaving to clear the alders with their chain saws. (It’s standard in Forks to carry a chain saw in your truck.) After they made a report at the sheriff’s station, the deputies guided them to a place to camp and told them that, for their own safety, they should leave at first light. The family left at dawn and bought a new battery at a Walmart 150 miles away, and Bertha rumbled off the peninsula.
A week later, Lowe made the comment to the Peninsula Daily News reporter that she didn’t think race had been a factor. She did so for a few reasons, she told me. For one, she wasn’t absolutely certain, but more important, she didn’t want to start something. What if her assumptions riled up real antifa militants and they targeted Forks? “If we make Forks look like a racist town, then Forks will burn, and that’s not what we want. We want it to all die down.” But since then, she had reconsidered. “If our voices can make the hate stop, then I want to try to make it stop.”
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