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Ketchikan hunkered down and took care of its own this week.
It’s one of the aspects of living in this island community to be appreciated.
Like in most places, each day we go about our business — working, playing, attending church, planning vacations to name a few. We strive, we compete, we love and we enjoy ourselves as much as we can. People have a penchant for enjoyment. This penchant has a part in motivating us through the struggle called life.
Then a day like this past Monday comes along. Our pilots, our passengers and our floatplanes went down in George Inlet.
This development is contrary to what we’ve come to expect. It shatters us or our sense of well-being, nearly to the person.
Still, we know this is what it is, and we have to respond appropriately.
The community did just that.
Charles Hanas, who was boating in the inlet with his wife Colleen Nesbitt, saw one of the planes splash and sink in the water, while surviving passengers flailed in the water.
He immediately responded, calling proper authorities and then taking his own inflatable skiff to the site to begin getting the survivors out of the water.
First responders, Allen Marine’s St. Innocent, George Inlet Lodge and good Samaritans soon joined Hanas’ effort.
PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center had all hands on deck when the casualties arrived at the emergency room’s door. Ketchikan’s hospital responded like the finely tuned machine we all hope it will be when it’s necessary to seek its services.
Locals arranged for the care of patients and their families beyond the sphere of the hospital. It was compassion at its peak. Love abounded.
One of the most loving responses, but far from the only example, was that of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. Ketchikan residents, who fairly regularly are called out to find a lost hiker, went to one plane’s crash site and searched for the missing and presumed dead. Despite what such a scene might look like, they proceeded in an effort that would help bring closure to loved ones. Every body was located.
Businesses like Cape Fox Lodge, Brewed Awakening and Bee’s Landscaping immediately started fundraisers for the family of the lone Ketchikan victim, pilot Randy Sullivan. They aren’t alone, and the others who could be added to this list if we knew all of their names, aren’t doing it for any other reason but that they care. We all care.
Most importantly, Sullivan’s family knows that we do.
A missing-man formation fly-by in honor of Sullivan is planned for around 6:30 p.m. today — Saturday — along Ketchikan’s waterfront.
In sharing news of that event with the town, Sullivan’s sister wrote: “I would also like to thank our amazing town for the outpour of love and support for our family.”
When Trina Sullivan speaks of family in this instance, she is referring to the ones who loved Randy most. But, the whole community of Ketchikan is like a family. And that resonates in her note, too.
Ketchikan undoubtedly will pay its respects in the most appropriate way as Sullivan is memorialized on Sunday. It will continue to wrap its collective arms around Sullivan’s family, and it will continue to help the survivors heal and return to theirs.
This is Ketchikan, our town.