What happens when the rose-colored glasses break


It still hits me at random times and almost always without warning. The most unexpected things will send me right back to that place.

It happened again this afternoon. I was busy at work, reviewing medical records for a girl in her 20s involved in a car accident. Nothing too out of the ordinary – until I got to the medivac records. Still, nothing crazy. It wasn’t a life-threatening injury. She just needed to be transported to a different hospital and helicopter was the best way.


Next thing I know I’m back in that time and place. It’s a gorgeous June morning. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect. I barely notice because I’m sitting by the entrance of the hospital impatiently awaiting a distinct sound that’s taking way too long. Finally I hear it: an engine approaching from above. It gets so close I can hear the blades spinning and the wind under them. Inside that helicopter is my step-daughter, unconscious and unaware of what is happening. I know it’s bad. I have my fears, but don’t yet know for sure how bad.

The following evening I listened to that same sound two more times. Once as the chopper arrived, empty. Again a few hours later – this time carrying only vital organs of the previous morning’s passenger. Pieces of that beautiful girl on a mission save as many lives as possible. Between those flights the sky opened up and poured down rain. Both times I stopped and listened, silently acknowledging what was happening. Everyone else carried on with what they were doing, seemingly unaware of the significance of those moments and that sound.

I guess helicopters are a trigger now, too.

I struggled to get through the rest of those medical records. It took me much longer than it should have. That girl is going to be fine. She is not Tori. Her injuries healed. She will probably never take another helicopter ride, but I’m pretty sure she’ll remember the one she did.

That feeling that I can’t describe hasn’t yet faded back into whatever corner it has been hiding in. The reality and the horror. The time between those helicopters was an absolute nightmare that seemed to go on forever. The amount of trauma that life can manage to cram into a less than 48-hour period is unfathomable. I would never believe it if I hadn’t lived it. The hell that ensued in the weeks and months afterwards … I don’t think there’s a novelist in the entire span of time and space with a comparable imagination.

At the end of it all, when the world resumes spinning, the reality still remains.

She’s gone.


I will never get to know her as well as I wanted to. I was just getting started. There will be no weddings or babies, or even just holidays. I can’t text her on a Saturday morning to see if she wants to grab brunch or send her a picture of something that reminds me of her. Since then, her dad’s abuse has escalated to the point where I finally had to cut him off completely. I can’t even share those moments or memories with him or her brother. Or her mom, or her family, or anyone other than my own daughter – who is struggling as well.

I guess I’ll just keep them to myself.

I love you, Beautiful Girl.