For those who don't know my bio, in my non-coastie life, I'm the wife of an HH-60 pilot. There are many days when I am reminded of the twinge of worry that lives constantly in the back of my mind. Today that reminder was a rushing linebacker that bowled me over early in the day.
This is a time of celebration for me... I'm two days away from my Change of Command ceremony, which will be a time to bask in the glow of a successful command tour. Because of that, we have family in town, and we've generally been enjoying ourselves, even through the stress of a PCS move. This morning, I was excited at the arrival of my father on island, and had just returned to our borrowed house to get ready to head into work after breakfast when my husband's phone rang.
The news was bad... a helicopter crash off the coast of Washington... with a crew from Sitka. We have friends in Sitka, more than a few of them. And then he told me the names of the pilots (which, as of this writing have not been released publicly, so I will not share them). One of them is a friend. I'm not going to pretend I was strong. I lost it. I lost it for his family. I lost it for the anguish and pain I knew his wife was feeling at that moment. I'm losing it now as I write this. I'm not even sure I SHOULD be writing this, but I feel helpless and shocked and hurt and this was the best way I could think to get it out.
As the day went on, I held onto a bit of hope that our friend would be rescued (first reports were two rescued, then the third). As I learned that all four crewmembers had been found, but that only one had survived, my only thought was a selfish hope that it was our friend who was in that hospital in Seattle. I NEEDED it to be him.
But, it is not. I am happy that at least one Coastie wife was on her way to Washington today so she could hug her husband. But I am devastated at the loss of our friend. And as I hear from other friends, I am equally devastated for the loss of their friends - the other two crewmembers.
Today was heart-wrenching. The coming days will be, too. I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone, but hug your loved ones a little closer and tighter tonight. Give thanks that they are with you. Don't go to bed angry. Say "I love you" when you can. Enjoy every moment you can because a day like today can remind you how easily and quickly it can be taken away.
I will have to tuck that worry back away when my husband climbs back into a cockpit when we get to our next duty station, otherwise I'll go insane with the "what-ifs." I know MANY other Coastie family members will have to do the same thing - or have done it already. We know the risks. We know the gains, too. And we're all proud of what these heroes do. That's probably what makes the loss that much harder to bear.
Tonight I'll go to sleep with prayers for my friend's family - and for the families of the whole crew, for the Coast Guard family in Sitka, and for the Coast Guard family as a whole - on my heart. I'll wake up tomorrow and continue my preparations for my Change of Command and my move. But I won't forget this heart-wrenching day.