It has been a terrible two months. My dad died during a search and rescue on the 31st of March. He picked up a trooper, Tage Toll, and went to locate an injured snow machiner. They found him, and got him into the helicopter. The flight to a waiting ambulance should have taken 5 minutes; but the weather was bad, and something went wrong. AST lost contact with my dad. The wreckage was found early the next morning, even though there was an extensive search on foot and snow machine that night. As is the case with most aircraft crashes, there was a post-crash fire. There was nothing left of Helo-1 but her tail and rotor.
Tage Toll had been with the troopers over 10 years. He is survived by his wife, Nikki, and their three sons.
Not a minute goes by where I don't think about my dad. He was a great dad; the best dad. My family was so lucky to have him. Amy loves him so much. The time came the other day to talk to her about what happened. She cried and cried, which means she understood. Then we had a nice time talking about how wonderful her grandpa was.
His loss has been a devastating blow to my family. We are close. We were never ashamed of my dad, or embarrassed (well, maybe a little, but only because his pajama pants were usually too short and he loved the sci-fi channel). He was the kind of dad you were incredibly proud of. We knew the work he did was amazing and heroic, but he would never admit that. It wasn't until his service and related gatherings that my sisters, mother, and I would learn the truth about what my dad did. He saved lives. He gave people hope. He took people out of horrid situations where they were going to die, and brought them home to their families. That is where my anger stems from. Why did so many people get a rescue (or two, or three), and my dad didn't get one?
My sister, Ashley, called to tell me on Easter morning. We had just finished finding eggs and sneaking little pieces of chocolate. My phone was in the bedroom. I had missed quite a few calls. When Ash finally got a hold of me, I thought she was joking. We are a big April Fools family, and it's not out of character to start a day before to get someone good. This wasn't a joke.
I made it to Anchorage that night, and was there with Jeramie for just over 10 days. Jeramie was amazing in getting my mom set up. There is a lot to do when something like this happens. But I can safely say we would not have survived had it not been for the troopers. The trooper, Tim Cronin, who informed my mom of the accident stayed with us the entire week, taking care of everything and anything we could need. He became a part of our family (he also knew and had flown with dad). He fit in so well, we knew dad must have picked him out for us. He even understood and appreciated our jokes. :)
From the moment the wreckage was found, to the moment dad's service was over, he and Tage were never alone. There were troopers standing guard with them 24 hours a day. When they were transported to Anchorage the roads were closed off by the fire department, and there was a processional for both my dad and Tage of no fewer than 70 patrol cars from both the troopers and police. People got out of their cars to pay their respects.
In short, it has been a nightmare. I couldn't even fully enjoy our trip to Vegas without feeling depressed as I watched the dozens of helicopter tours zoom overhead. My dad is gone, and I will forever have this huge void in my heart. He was an amazing man who should still be here. My dad went to work and he didn't come home. Nothing can ever prepare you for that type of pain. Nothing can ever make that okay or easier to deal with.
I love my dad so, so much. I can't wait for the day when I see him again. For now I have to take comfort in knowing that my guardian angel already knows how to fly.