By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWPORT - Robert Rogers remembers the moment eight months ago when he thought he was dying in peace.
Peace because, he says, he was going to heaven with his wife, Melissa, and their four children after a 7-foot wall of water rolled their white minivan into a culvert below Interstate 35 near Emporia, Kan.
"I just wasn't afraid," said Rogers, 37, who grew up in Westwood. "I knew we were going to be OK."
Their story made national headlines then; on Sunday, it touched old friends at Christian Tabernacle, where Rogers dedicated his life to Christ 20 years ago.
Rogers, who now lives in Liberty, Mo., shared what happened that night at a service that drew about 100 people.
In just 15 minutes that day, his life changed.
The family was returning from a wedding reception in Wichita, Kan., to their home three hours away the night of Aug. 30, 2003. That evening, 5 inches of rain fell between 8 and 9 p.m., engorging a creek that crossed under Interstate 35, Rogers said.
In the dark, Melissa Rogers drove unaware into the rising torrent, where their minivan was trapped between stopped vehicles and a concrete barrier.
Hoping they could escape, Robert Rogers kicked out a window. He was sucked out along with his wife and eldest daughter, where the flash flood tumbled him underwater for about a half-mile until he surfaced and managed to crawl to safety.
The bodies of Melissa and their children Makenah, 8, Zachary, 5, Nicholas, 3, and Alenah, 1, were found later, the youngest three still strapped in their car seats.
Months after the accident, "I still cry every day," Rogers said.
God "allows things to happen," he said. "I think He allowed this to happen so ... people could be touched around the world."
Originally trained as a musician, Rogers quit his job as an electrical engineer in December to begin a music ministry.
Rogers' Web site, www.mightyintheland.com, is named after a verse in Psalm 112 he and his wife taught their children: "His children will be mighty in the land."
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