Before we move on to unfortunate current events such as ISIS, AQAP, and terrorism in Paris, let’s take a break from man’s inhumanity to man to reflect on the heartfelt story of a sole survivor of a small airplane crash.
By now you’ve heard the story of 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler who survived the crash of her father’s Piper small twin-engine plane in Western Kentucky, where unfortunately her entire family and cousin perished.
One of the most noteworthy parts of the story is that played by 71-year-old Larry Wilkins, the grandfatherly-like gentleman who answered the door at his Kuttawa, KY home after Sailor trekked nearly a mile there in rugged terrain, nearly freezing temps, dressed in shorts, and shoeless.
I read the story in my local newspaper and was still thinking it was a regional story when a friend called to tell me that the story was all over the national news.
Soon I was listening to Larry Wilkins on Sirius and watching him on CNN. First was the realization that the full impact of any story can’t possibly be understood through print media alone (apologies to my friends at the newspaper) as I needed to see and hear Mr. Wilkins to fully comprehend all the subtle nuances of the story.
Then my fears about seeing Kentucky portrayed in the national media came to the fore. There is a tendency for the national media to portray all Kentuckians as back-woodsy hillbillies, and certainly we have our share of that, but I live in the very cosmopolitan Lexington community, and we are kinda touchy about outsiders thinking we’re all hillbillies.
So here’s this gentleman, from OK, sort of a back-woodsy kind of place (Lyon county), representing my home state and well, I could not have been more proud. His folksy Kentucky brogue, his mild manner, his obvious compassion, and his eloquence; well, I was proud to be a Kentuckian if this man represented my state.
And if there was anything to add, it was supplied by his dogs, the two dachshunds. He shared with CNN anchor Don Lemon that he’d only had one of the dogs for three weeks, that he was skittish about everybody, but not with Sailor. Mr. Wilkins said the skittish one “took right to her.” Anyone who knows about kids and dogs, knows that this had to help Sailor feel safe.
My favorite expert opinion was another interview on CNN with a psychologist. She shared that she was an expert in attachment disorders and thought the child might have a problem attaching to others as a result of this trauma. But she added that there are people, including children, who seem to be born with resilience or the ability to spring back or recover quickly from difficulties.
Here’s hoping that little Sailor has this inborn trait. After what she’s displayed so far, it would certainly appear that she might.
And so we celebrate Kentuckians, grandfatherly types, anything back-woodsy, dachshunds, and little resilient girls. May they inspire all of us to be more like them!