Our Field Trip to the Reno Air Races on September 16, 2011


It was a beautiful day for a homeschooling field trip to the Reno National Championship Air Races.  For the last five years, we have gone on Friday when homeschool groups and schools can get in free. This year there were five homeschooling groups (ours with well over 150 and at least one other with at least 30) plus some public school classes.
My hubby, our son “Buddy”, and I were having a great time.  We honestly intended on staying later than we usually do, so we can see a lot more of the actual races that start at about noon. To get in free with our homeschool group, we have to get there by 9am.  We spend that time exploring the Pit (like in the top picture to the left), checking out the vendor area (Buddy’s favorite part…), and watching the stunt planes.
While Buddy and I started looking for fellow homeschoolers in the stands area, my hubby picked a great location to hang out and watch all of the stunts and tricks.  He was standing very close to that pole in the video (of the crash you have likely seen many times on the news) for at least an hour.  Right before Buddy and I left him there, I looked up at a plane that was coming straight down towards us while doing a roll.  All of a sudden, I felt and somewhat heard inside of me, “that plane can come straight down here.”  It kind of freaked me out, but I just made myself brush it off.
By the time that we all three got back together in the stands, Buddy was starting his campaign to go home.  We had planned to get hooked up with a fellow homeschool family, introduce our hubby’s, and sit together.  With an aspie meltdown starting to brew, I decided that this unfortunately was not going to happen. 

We went ahead and left a little after 2pm.  In fact, several families in our group started leaving around 2-3pm for a variety of unplanned reasons.  There was even a family we know of that left about 15 minutes before the crash.  A couple of families who fully intended to be there had decided not to attend pretty much at the last minute, also.

As far as I know, there were only two of our families still there when the crash happened just after 4pm.  Both of the moms are close friends of mine. One of them had taken the kiddos out into the vending area while her hubby was still watching in the stands.  While the kiddos and my friend didn’t actually see it happen, they were separated from their dad/hubby for a bit and still in the midst of chaos.

My friend who we were supposed to meet up with was also unfortunately still there with her hubby and son.  They were sitting right by a lady who was severely injured and later passed away.  My friend’s hubby got a broken bone and they all were bruised a bit and very shaken up.
I have gone through somewhat of a survivor’s guilt, even though I sometimes think that I don’t really have a right to.  I wasn’t actually still there.  So many others have more of a “right” than I do… And yes, I know in my brain that this thinking is not correct, but I honestly have felt this way many times as I have tried to process this.
Questions keep spinning through my head :
  • Why were we gone and safe and her family was still there right in the middle of it all?
  • If I had worked harder at meeting up with them, would they have left with us?  Would they have moved further away from the crash site to sit with us?
  • Would we have still been there if we met up?  Would we have been right in the middle of it all?

It was wonderful and therapeutic talking with her at length a few days later.  Her hubby was able to help a great deal, because he is a first responder and was “right there”.  He also had the quickness of mind to tell her to get down and cover their son before the impact.  Would I have thought and moved soon enough?  Or would I have just stood there with my chin dropped?  The main answer we can come up with is that her hubby was needed in this situation and was therefore placed there.

Facebook was SO helpful in the aftermath.  We were able to check in and ask about others.  In just a short time, we were able to find out the whereabouts and conditions of everyone.  Not everyone is on Facebook, but we all started compiling a list of those who attended and tracking them down.  What a relief!

You can click on my pictures to see larger versions.  Please remember all of the victims and their families of this terrible tragedy.  There were at least 11 fatalities and well over 55 injured enough to be taken to a hospital. 

  • Update 4/20/2017: “Buddy” still refuses to return even though there are field trips with friends every year (except the one after the accident). He doesn’t even like to know that anyone he knows will be there.   ~  My brother-in-love who passed away about two years ago was also there that day (in the stands). He wasn’t physically injured, but it definitely traumatized him as well. 


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