Something inside Laurie told her that their flight wasn't going right. When she looked out the window, she says she noticed that the trees seemed too close and the mountains looked like they were directly in the plane's path. "I didn't even have a chance to think of what was happening," she says. "I was in this shock. I remember hearing Macallan. He just cried, and it was this cry of nervousness. That just panicked me."
The small plane lost altitude fast. Then, it suddenly crashed, exploding on impact. "I could feel the heat," Laurie remembers. "I knew we had to get out. I remember going into some kind of craziness, and I started screaming, 'Get my baby!'"
Clyde lunged into the inferno to try to rescue Macallan. Laurie says she screamed for her son, but when Clyde returned he said, "I'm sorry, but I didn't get him out."
As Laurie lay on the ground next to the plane, she says she could see her son still strapped in his car seat. He had died moments after impact.
Stranded in a remote area, the pilot left Laurie and her husband, who had burned more than 75 percent of his body, behind to search for help. Five hours later, rescuers finally arrived. "We were getting loaded onto the helicopter, and there was this man sitting there in a seat and his head was like the size of a pumpkin," Laurie says. "All of a sudden his hand just raised up in this small wave and as soon as he did that I went, 'Oh, my gosh, that's Clyde.' I didn't even recognize him. I looked at him, and he mouthed to me, 'I love you.' Those were the very last words I ever heard from him."
In one tragic day, Laurie lost her son and her husband. She escaped with a severely broken leg and bruises.
After losing her family, Laurie says she struggled with suicidal thoughts. "There were days I begged to die," she says. "I didn't want to live without them. Death was just a bottle of sleeping pills away, and I remember being so angry at God and asking him, 'Why did you have to take both?'"
To mend her broken leg, Laurie went through a series of operations. After each surgery, she says she would become very angry and depressed. "[I would] just feel like, 'Am I ever going to get out of this cycle? Am I ever going to heal?'" she says.
As time went by, Laurie decided suicide wasn't the right answer. "I knew that my life was not mine to take. It was a gift given to me, and it wasn't my possession to take," she says. "Also, those around me had suffered so much ... I thought I couldn't contribute more to that."
Laurie says she was angry at God for a year and half. Then, she made a decision that changed how she looked at her life.
Instead of suppressing her grief and anger, Laurie got honest about her emotions. "I thought, 'Why not get angry? What else can [God] do to me?'" she says. "It gave me the sense of freedom to feel what I had to feel and go through what I had to go through."
Then, Laurie says she realized she could think of what was taken away from her or she could think about what was given to her. She decided to focus on her blessings. "I was given a great life," she says. "I had this great little boy. I had a wonderful marriage. I had a great life. To sit there and to be angry that they were taken would deny that wonderful life I had with them."
Laurie has also learned to forgive. When the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the plane crash that killed her loved ones was caused by pilot error, she dealt with her emotions head on. "Forgiveness, I believe, is something that we give to ourselves," Laurie says. "It's a choice we make, and it frees me up of any anger or hate. It doesn't mean I wasn't angry. It doesn't mean I wasn't jealous of him and his family. But once again, I just dealt with those emotions."
Following the crash, Laurie was on crutches for two years. Since then, she has created something positive from her tragic experience—LemonAid, a company that creates designer crutches. Fifty percent of all profits are donated to Step With Hope, a foundation dedicated to helping people cope with profound loss. She also has a fresh outlook on life.
"Instead of living this life of expectation and rules and formulas, I feel like I live this life of curiosity," Laurie says. "I have no clue what's going to happen tomorrow, so I just take this moment to be here. To meet the people I get to meet. To be surrounded by the events and the experiences."
When Rhonda Britten was 14 years old, she witnessed a crime that destroyed her life for two decades—she saw her father kill her mother and then turn the gun on himself.
After that tragic day, Rhonda says she was plagued by guilt. "I pretty much blamed myself," she says. "[I thought], 'I'm the only witness. I'm sitting there with the gun, and I'm watching this whole thing unfold.' I believed that somehow I should have been able to stop it. I should have been able to save my mother. I should have been able to do something."
Rhonda says she felt worthless and powerless. For the next 20 years, she put herself through hell. "I personally tried to kill myself three times," she says. "I felt that I didn't have a right to live. If I wasn't able to save [my mother's] life, how did I have a right [to live]?" Rhonda also abused alcohol to dull the pain.
After Rhonda's third suicide attempt, she was faced with a critical decision. "I realized that I had to decide who I was going to be," she says. "I had to be willing to let go of the past. I had to be willing to focus on the future and let go of what was."
Rhonda put her tragic childhood behind her and became a life coach in 1996. Now, she's the author of four books, including her best-seller, Fearless Living.
Making the decision to move on is just the first of many steps to overcoming tragic circumstances, Rhonda says. "Lots of people make decisions, but they don't live by them," she says. "They don't take personal responsibility."
Rhonda believes people should face—and embrace—their fears. "When you accept your humanity, when we accept that we're human and have feelings, we actually get to experience the divine," she says. "You've got to believe that inner voice. We all need support, but I also think at a turning point for everybody when they need to change their life or want to change their life is they have to sit and say to themselves, 'No one's going to change it but me.'"
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