Once the children were safe, everyone was able to reflect on the important impact of the trip, she said.
"It is very powerful that this was a Catholic leadership retreat and our seventh-graders experienced it on a whole different level," Sister Begovic said. "Individuals were working behind the scenes to get them home safely and the Lord provided us in abundance with examples of Christian leadership."
Assistant Principal Heather Grams, who students called "their hero," accompanied by Sandy Harem, director of John Paul II Adventures leadership program, hiked throughout the area to find Internet connection and working phone lines. Harem, along with her dedicated staff, also stayed with the children until they were rescued even though they could have gone home.
"In this day of kids having cell phones and immediate access, it was particularly hard for this generation," said parent chaperone Lynn Tartell, who made the trip with her daughter, Sarah, 12.
Tartell's husband, Joe, and their older daughter, Megan, a Regis Jesuit High School student, considered driving to the camp but heeded Sister Begovic's request to trust they would get the group home safely.
"I was texting my husband and in the middle of the text we lost the connection," Lynn Tartell said. "We had no communication for a day and that was very hard on him. He was up all night worrying about us."
Megan Tartell said they stopped watching the television reports because it was causing them too much anxiety.
The group left Denver on Wednesday when the rain was steady but light. This is the first year the seventh-graders took the leadership retreat. A group of eighth-graders were at the camp earlier in the week and left before the storm.
On Wednesday evening, Sarah Tartell said some of her classmates felt a special connection to God when they were praying.
"It started to pour rain and it was so pretty," she recalled. "The girls were singing their hearts out."
But the next morning the group awoke to high water around the cabins and an issue about power at the camp. Grams and the other adults agreed with the option to carpool the group to higher ground at the Highland Presbyterian Camp in nearby Allenspark, which the Red Cross has used previously for shelters in times of crisis. The camp became a makeshift shelter but Red Cross officials could not get there because of washed out roads.
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Tartell said the chaperones drove the students to the new location with music playing on the car radios because they didn't want to alarm the students. But once the adults were alone they tuned the radio to KOA and understood the severity of the situation.
"Everyone was very nice at the camp and the locals knew which roads were passable and which roads were not," she said. "The teachers kept the students busy with new activities."
The adults were able to keep the students positive and in good spirits, despite a challenging situation. An older group of visitors already staying at the camp were quilters and taught some of the students how to quilt. The students also played a game they dubbed, "Survivor: The Flood" based on the Biblical characters of Noah, David and Jonah. They hiked, sang songs, and recited the rosary.
"We read through James Chapter I on trials, perseverance, and the rewards of enduring challenges in order to grow in faith," Grams wrote in an email to parents.
Several area residents evacuated to the camp engaged the students in conversations.
"Many of them already knew their homes were destroyed but they were so thrilled they just got out with their dogs and other animals," Lynn Tartell said. "Our kids really understand that kind of loss now."