So some of you know that I was in a helicopter crash in 1992 in which two people died. One of them was the pilot, Tom Teufel. He was responsible for the crash - while he was performing stunts and maneuvers. The NTSB report officially listed “Pilot Error” as the cause of the accident.
I did attend his Celebration of Life and met his family briefly. Among his survivors were his wife and children, his sister, and two brothers. That was the last contact I had with any members of the Teufel family.
21 years passed (22 years in May) and today I came across his sister. She was at my office. She didn’t have any idea who I was, but Immediately recognized her name in our schedule. So I sat down next to her and said, “Hi, I’m Kate. I knew your brother, Tom.”
And she began to weep.
And she asked me, “How did you know him?”
And I said to her, “I was in the helicopter when it crashed.”
…the moment it occurred to her that I was one of the survivors, she began to cry and asked if she could hug me. I told her, “of course.”
We spoke today for a while. I was able to fill in some of the story that was missing for her and she was able to share with me some of the details that I didn’t know about Tom and the search.
It was a beautiful meeting. I felt so sad for her, because she is obviously still in so much pain over the loss of her brother and also carries with her some guilt. She assured me that her brother did everything he could to save our lives. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that he, in fact, did not. I simply said, “I have no doubts that he did his best.”
She shared with me that one of her other brother had just committed suicide last month and that one of Tom’s sons is a heroin addict (they were so young when their Dad died, it’s sad that this has happened). They seem to be still very much in pain. For that, I am so sad.
She asked me to forgive him. I told her that I already had. She cried more.
I, astonishingly enough, did not cry. I felt very strong. Very healed. Very good. I assured her that I’m living a very happy life, with two beautiful daughters and a very loving husband.
…it was a surreal experience. I certainly wasn’t anticipating such an emotionally packed day, but life is like that sometimes. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.