Talk of the Town: Ten years later, crash still resonates

On the cold icy morning of Dec. 5, 2001, we were in an airplane accident in Prescott, Ariz. We lost two dear friends in the crash and we still miss them very much.

Our young family moved to Prescott from "the Valley of the Sun" in 1994, right after our fourth child was born. For the next seven and a half years we made Prescott our home. We thought we would live in Prescott for the rest of our lives. Sadly, the day of Dec. 5 changed that plan.

The purpose of this Talk of the Town is to express our gratitude to everyone in Prescott involved with our survival and recovery; the first responders, friends from our church, other friends and family members. Thanks also, to all those we've never met and don't know us; yet prayed for us, participated in car washes, and any other activity that helped our family.

We would like to offer special thanks to Karen Campbell and her family, Nancy Baker, Shirley Watkins, Tuzanne Cordes, Spencer and Michelle Collett, Jim Crockett, Keith Bunker, Robin Tarver, and their families.

We also wish to thank all of you unnamed individuals who know more about how you helped us than we do; since most of what happened that day and the next few months had to be told to us while we recovered in the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix. We remember most of what happened leading up to the accident, then our memories pick up again sometime after Christmas 2001 for me and sometime in March 2002 (when she came out of an induced coma after three and half months) for Shellie.

We know this letter has been a long time in coming. We have been focused on our seemingly never-ending recovery and the desires of our children to not bring attention to the tragedy of that day. Now that our children are older, we have been able to talk more freely of that time. Please do not let our silence these past 10 years speak for us, for we have truly been humbled by the love of a small community that pulled together to take care of their own.

For the most part we are healthy. Shellie and I still feel, as we mentioned in interviews done soon after Shellie got out of the hospital, like we moved into 80-year-old bodies. Shellie still feels pain on a daily basis and it is a struggle for her to get up each morning, as the night seems to stiffen every joint and muscle, and the grafted skin seems to tighten and shrink. I still have a staph infection in my shin bone that I still need to bandage daily. However, we are grateful to be alive. As each pivotal moment in our children's lives happens, we thank God that we are there to be a part of it.

Our family is happy and this bump in our road has strengthened us. We love one another and have learned to rely on one another. Our family has grown, as Piper has married a young man that fits perfectly into our family, and our family will grow again in May as they bring us our first grandbaby!

We feel all of this is possible for many reasons, and today we feel to say thank you for one of those reasons; the love and generosity of an amazing little town - our hometown, Prescott - and its wonderful citizens. Please accept our gratitude to all of you and for what you did for us.