APRIL 3, 2012 11:02AM

Grace in the Skies

Rate: 25 Flag


Picture her in the cockpit of the twin engine Cessna, six miles out from the sunset you see here. Door County Wisconsin. She is 80 years old. Her husband, piloting the plane, is 81. He suffers a medical emergency. He’s unconscious. And this 80 year old Sturgeon Bay woman, whose name has not yet been released, and who has never once flown a plane alone, takes control of the aircraft.


She makes radio contact 6 miles south of Sturgeon Bay. And a second pilot takes off to help fly along side her and guide her in to a safe landing.


An eyewitness describes the woman making repeated attempts to land. Circling Door County’s tiny Cherryland Airport “at least 10 times.”



Finally she brought the plane in, the Cessna hopped twice, the nose gear collapsed, but she held the aircraft steady. Kept it from skidding.


Sheriff Terry Vogel said of what she did, “I think there was a lot of thought and work that went into it.”


She suffered minor injuries. Her husband was pronounced dead.


And in the coming time of grief, of unfathomable sorrow for her husband. In reflecting on that other pilot who took off to help, perhaps not even thinking about it, but just going, because that’s what people do. In the quiet rhythms cascading over the water at sunset in Door County Wisconsin, if you listen real hard, you can hear echoes of a far off trumpet play for this picture of grace in the skies.


A trumpet plays like a quiet sunset, a song called “It Might As Well Be Spring.”



Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Photo Credit: Budget travel dot com. Source: Door County Advocate
Lovely piece. I don't think I'd get in a plane with an 81 year old pilot, but grace in the sunset, for sure.
beautiful. posts like this remind how much i love people.
Grace for sure. I like when life brings out the best in us and the worst at the same time. Great music. Thank you!!
"Might as well be..." playing in the background... wow what a mix!
"And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
Absolutely beautiful post.
Great ending for a bittersweet story. R
Simple, sweet & right to the heart.
jlsathre---And for the guy who went up to help her!

Hey Damon!

Mimetalker--I don't know about you---but I forget that a lot!

Zanelle--That's a guy named Clifford Brown who died way too young.

jmac--He owns that song

toritto--I never get tired of that guy

nilesite--Amen to that! And welcome!

tc--that is beautiful.

Major--Glad you liked it. The story made AP news and the Washington Post--why not OS?

Hey Bernadine and JH! Thanks!
I love your taste in music. Great story!
Like seeing angels and believing in Faeries.

Soul food, this.
All I can say is "WOW" and WOW again ~

Neat story - love Door County.
Nick---Impressive people in the north country.

Sam--Always good to meet a Clifford fan.

Suzy--I'm wrestling with formatting a table of contents today and needed a diversion too!

eye---that's what I said when I was reading this and speaking with a first hand source. Then Clifford appeared. . .

Sarah---Yea Wisconsin!
I loves me a gutsy woman. And for sure, there's more to Wisconsin than the Packers and recalls.
B---You got that right!
UPDATE: The names of the couple, John and Helen Collins, was released this afternoon.

Along with the statement by their son that 30 years ago his father had made sure than his wife had some practice taking off and landing----just in case something ever happened.
You go, Mrs. Pilot! I've never heard a more beautiful rendition of that song, Chi.

I wish my dad were alive to read this. Spring in Door County can't be beat. Two words: cherry blossoms.
Love that horn~Good post C~
L---I don't think there is one! Although Bill Evans is in the ballpark.

CM--Yep. Those ARE the two words!

Hey Scanner--That guy could play.
@Chicago Guy ~ I've been playing the sound on the video all day while working in a different window, so now I need to add one more "WOW"! '-}
Just in case, I don't want anyone to think the lines I quoted were mine, tho I certainly wish they were. For those who may not be familiar, here's the poem in toto:

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941
eye---And Clifford Brown only lived till he was 25. This is his signature song (in my opinion) but everything he did was strong. I love the work he did with Sarah Vaughn. I listen to him a lot.

Tom---That is breathtaking. I see something like that and I wish I was a member of the front page club, just so more people could see stuff like that. Oh well---for the few who do see it---they get a treat!
Gorgeous horn. I know what I'll be listening to at work tomorrow.

I'd heard the basics of the story earlier but I think your comment at 5:03 moved me more than all the rest of it.
NC--There was a news conference on this yesterday afternoon. Pieces of the story were everywhere from USA Today on out. But that "just in case anything ever happened" comment moved me more than anything too.

The guy who went up in the other plane was a friend of John Collins. He was also the only guy who had a plane fast enough to keep up. As he took off, his wife--a flight instructor--stayed on the radio with Helen Collins to help her get calm and focused. Which according to all accounts, she was---as she brilliantly pulled this off.

So all those years ago when John Collins had her practice and all the time she spent with him as he flew, her amazing focus, strength and courage, all of it came together.

It might as well be spring.
I saw this story last night. You did a great job with it Roger.
"because that’s what people do"
Loved how that pilot just took his plane up to help her land.
Thanks trilogy! I found the story really inspiring. And I love what that pilot did.
When I read that news story, all I could think was "wow," followed by my amazement at the man's foresight at having his wife practice landing years ago "just in case." I'm impressed that she was able to keep calm enough to remember that lesson and get home safely.
Such a beautiful story of love and life
rated with love
Oh, so good!!! You find hope and light in the most unlikely places...and I think that must be Gabriels' horn I hear playing - it's heavenly!!! This was my morning meditation!