Visiting the Accident Site | An Emotional Healing Process

3 Jul

Author Catie and her husband Steve hiking up to the site of the accident

Yesterday morning, author Catie Hartsfield, along with her husband Steve and two sons, Bryant and James, visited the site of Bryant’s accident. Although the accident happened over 8 years ago, Catie had never actually been to the site where Bryant fell. Below are some images Catie was able to snap with her phone while out on the trails.

Here is what Catie had to say about the trip:

“Yesterday was a very emotional day for us. It has been over eight years since my son fell 180 feet off a cliff at the Gorge.  I never visited the place where he fell, or the site that changed our lives forever.  There are several reasons for this.  First, I simply was not emotionally ready to visit the site for several years.  Unfortunately, once I was ready emotionally, I was not ready physically.  I suffered a bad skiing accident many years ago damaging both of my knees, making hiking and climbing extremely difficult and painful.

My weight became a problem for me over the years after the accident, which only made the pain in my knees worse.  After years of self discovery about my food addictions and learning more and more about healthy eating, food allergies, supplements, and alternative treatments for my knees, I was finally both emotionally and physically ready for the hike.  I did not sleep the night before, my anxiety building more and more throughout the night.  
 
The morning broke sunny and bright, and really warm.  It has been between ninety-five and one-hundred and three all week with high humidity.  With Steve off of work for the week, we decided there was no time like the present.  When Bryant and James heard that we were going to go, they both decided to join us.  I am so glad that they came, as it made for a really special day.  

View of the cliff Bryant fell off of from across the Gorge. Notice the steep rocks Catie had to climb down on her way down.

We hiked in through beautiful woods and thankfully, it was a little cooler under the tree canopy.  I now understand why the boys love it so much here.  It reminds me of the places we took them hiking as children. Unfortunately, my freshly bathed body was a haven for the mosquitoes and horse flies.  James told me again how bad the horse flies were when he found his brother and reminded me of the difficulty he had in keeping them off of him.  
 

It was an emotional day for Author Catie Hartsfield to visit the site of her son’s accident.

It took several hours to hike up to the ledge where Bryant fell.   I was thrilled to be there, just knowing that I had worked so hard, for so many years to be able to make this journey was empowering. Having my two sons with me, both the one who fell and his rescuer, made all the difference in the world. What touched me the most was the excitement that they felt in finally being able to share these things with me, and the loving, gentle care they took with me.  On the way up, James pointed out every spot in his journal entries about the rescue, bringing it all to life for me.  To know that my feet were walking where his feet were that fateful day brings a mix of emotions to me. 
 
 Looking around at the thick underbrush and the thousands of acres of woods, it amazes me that he was able to locate his injured brother, not knowing at that time that his brother had fallen.  I looked around in shock and awe at the small percentage of his chance of rescue.  The next thought I had is how overwhelming it must have been to James once he located his brother, knowing that he had no idea where to find help.  He ran miles of trails looking for someone to help him,  finally deciding there was no help to be found, only to go back to be by his brother’s side while he died and then to find out that he was so lost he couldn’t find his brother again.  My heart was wrenching at this thought.  The courage and fortitude that it took for the rescuers to navigate the thick underbrush to bring James’s stretcher down the mountainside while keeping it level played out in my mind as well.

The view James had when looking for help in rescuing his brother Bryant

 

I had a mixture of emotions on our trek up. Steve was there for support, but it was the excitement and happy faces of our sons making it all bearable.  We laughed and talked all the way up.  They take me up the long way, and suddenly we are there.  The overhang where they slept in the rain that night.  The stone couch where Bryant was last seen sleeping.  I walked over to the edge, and that is where it hit me.  I imagined my son going off of that edge in the black of night.  Sliding down the embankment, free-falling until his body hit the bottom.  Lost in the night, alone and broken in the rain. Looking at the perimeter of the cliff I understand for the first time how this could have happened.  There are small scrub trees and vegetation growing along the edge, giving a false pretense of safety, then there is a straight drop off.  I feel absolute wonderment that my son is alive!  I thought about Steve standing at the bottom of this cliff taking a video of Bryant rappelling over the side eight months later.  I thought about the fortitude and guts that it took for Bryant to go back and beat this cliff that tried to destroy his life.  To go over the face again, after all he had been through.  Wow, lots of emotions hit me hard!  I thought about my own fear of heights since the accident.  James put his arms around me and held onto me, everyone gave me my space and time to cry. 

 

The underbrush Bryant fell into and what James had to hike through to find help

 
We stayed for a while, having  heartfelt wonderful moments. We had been gone a while and it was time to head down.  Walking up is easier for me than walking down.  The boys wanted to take me down the fastest way and it was clear to me that they wanted me to experience the path that they took that day.  I was not prepared for how steep the descent would be.  My sons were awesome.  They held my hands, to encourage me. I didn’t want to be afraid anymore so I let them lead me over the edge. They were gentle, loving and guided me down the steep slope.  Most of the time I was scooting on my bottom, looking for hand and foot holds.  We then hiked back through the woods and to the car.  
 
I am glad that I made this journey, so that I can understand my sons love of this spot,  and so that I can have closure.  It has been a long journey for all of us.  I am excited for the rest of you to read this amazing inspirational story.  We hope to have the book “The Year of the Cicadas” out by late summer or early fall as we are finishing up the editing now.”


The Year of The Cicadas | Inspirational True Story | Author Catie Hartsfield | theyearofthecicadas@gmail.com

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