Celebrating Life!

If you have ever had a life changing event, good or bad, you most likely know what it is to wake up on the anniversary of that particular day…and simply know deep down today is the day. For me, the day is October 26th…and on this day 18 years ago, I was 28, engaged to be married, owned a growing construction materials company, was on the ice daily coaching some talented figure skaters, lived in a loft in downtown Minneapolis, and shared my home with my Bichon Frise puppy named Rockwell.

On that fateful day, I chose to charter a helicopter to fly over a construction project with the hope of giving the workers a unique perspective of a significant project on which they had worked so hard. The rides were well received and everyone was enjoying the views from above…until the last ride of the day, when there was room for one more to fill the five passenger Bell Jet Ranger. The guys waved me over and I climbed into the rear center seat, put on my headset, and felt the excitement that only a helicopter can galvanize.

As we flew over a newly constructed bridge, the pilot saw the power lines that had just been strung. He made a decision to fly under versus over the lines, which I credit for keeping us alive, regardless we became entangled. The lines wrapped around the post and cables connecting our rotor. Unfortunately, the cables broke causing our rotor to disconnect from the helicopter. The turbulence was immediate and violent. With an obstructed view looking forward, I had no idea what had happened, but the pilot instructed us “hold on, we’re going down!”

Our momentum carried us another quarter mile with extreme jarring and shaking and I knew this was going to hurt…and hurt bad. I never thought I was going to die. We were seated upright, and to me that somehow meant survival. Microphones were connected to each headset, and I can hear the nearly unanimous “Oh my Gods” as clear today as if I were still seated in the cabin.

We came down hard on the brand new concrete pavement, skidded into the ditch and crashed into the temporary concrete median barrier. All four men were out of the wreckage instantly, however, I remained inside unable to get my leather work gloves under the buckle to release the lap constraint. I looked up and saw the bright blue sky…thinking where did the roof go? In that very moment, the helicopter exploded…with me right in the center…where it was completely quiet and eerily serene. I was blown backward and found my legs coming up over my head in the bench seat to which I was still confined. I could see the red flames and black smoke with a towering plume climbing into the sky…in an instant, I realized the flames were coming around the bench seat from both sides just as I was able to free my seat belt and somersault out of the seat. The flames caught the back of my jet fuel soaked turtle neck, and I knew my clothing was on fire. It never dawned on me…that in fact, I was on fire.

The Stop, Drop, and Roll message ran through my head, therefore, I stayed on the ground rolling…only to look back at the dry vegetation igniting behind me. I screamed for help with all that I had, knowing at this point that I was in real trouble. The pilot jumped on my back, causing severe burns to himself, and put out the flames. I recall this entire event in slow-motion detail and could share with you the acts of kindness and heroism that I witnessed on that afternoon, but I do not want to lose sight of the meaning of this message.

When I wake up on this day, October 26th, I have felt a range of emotions. I have been filled with sadness, I have felt guilt, I have been consumed with anger for my loss, but mostly…I celebrate…I celebrate the fact that I am alive, I celebrate that God gave me choice…and I fought to survive. I celebrate all of the loved ones who were there for me, supported me, and love me even with my flaws. It is important to share with you that I don’t judge those feelings or consider them to be unhealthy; I simply feel them, acknowledge them, and accept to the best of my ability.

As I sit here writing this blog…I can’t help but thank God and those that mean so very much to me for being there every step of the way, for helping me fight, and for encouraging me to share my life’s journey with so many of you…

With unimaginable gratitude and love to you all,

Sarah Bazey
Mrs. International 2012


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