Warning: this is some heavy stuff, this was so hard to organize and rewrite. Today is the 4-month anniversary of Ryan’s accident … here we go.
“Just Landed” was the text I was waiting for on Wednesday August 22nd. Every flight Ryan ever took I always got that text or phone call. Every single one… a promise we made to each other when he first started flight training.
Hank and I did a long hike on the Buckeye Trail in Ohio, that day. Then we went to eat ice cream at our favorite ice cream parlor in Lebanon. I sat there and watched Hank eat his melted Chocolate Ice cream and sent Ryan pictures from our hike. I called him on our way home, we talked about the hike, about Hank, and about the groceries I needed to get, and I asked him to Venmo me $50. We talked about the flight he had scheduled in a few hours, a Spin Training flight. He was so excited about it. He sent me a video of another student preforming the same maneuver to help ease my nerves… it made it worse. Then we briefly discussed if Hank ever wanted a pet rat would I be okay with it. I said Yes. We also talked about the road trip he was leaving for the very next day.
>>side note<<< Thursday (Aug 23, 2018) was the day Ryan was leaving San Diego and driving out to Ohio to be with Hank and I full time as a family, again. His flight Wednesday was the last flight he needed before his FAA check ride to be an CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) and his FAA check ride was scheduled to be in Ohio (ugh) <<<<
We ended our conversation with “I love you” and “I’ll call you after my flight”
That was our last conversation, the last time I heard his voice. His flight was scheduled for 4pm Pacific Time so 7pm my time, in Ohio. He didn’t text me before, which is normal, but around 830pm my Mom and Sister started asking “has Ryan landed yet?” They knew what type of flight it was, and they knew I was a little nervous about it. I said not yet, but it wasn’t completely unusual for him to be running late… maybe they took off late? Another hour went by…. Then another…
I thought “Ok, maybe his phone died, he hasn’t had a chance to charge it, maybe it broke, maybe, maybe, maybe….” But I knew that in any of those situations Ryan would have found a phone and called me, I knew deep down in my heart that something was not right
SIX hours went by… I was sitting in my bed, my sister and mom still checking in, waiting for anything. I realized I had not eaten dinner and the second I stood up to go into the kitchen, my phone rang with a (619) area code. San Diego’s area code. My heart stopped, I knew before I answered the phone that this wasn’t going to be good.
“Hello, is this Krista Willis? Wife of Ryan Willis?”
“Hi this is (his name) a friend of Dave. Dave and Ryan had a flight together this afternoon that left at 4pm”
“Yes” my heart started racing.
“Their plane has not returned” I stopped breathing.
I caught my breath; my heart was beating twice as fast to catch up to my thoughts, and I cried. I cried like I have never cried before, it was painful. Dave’s friend and Dave’s wife stayed very calm, they talked me through the phone call and promised to share any information they got throughout the night. The SD Police Dept. was dispatched to find them. (I still don’t know all the details) I called my mom, I didn’t have to say much, she knew, and she raced over to my house to sit in bed with me. I don’t know what I would have done without her that night. We didn’t sleep. I played out every single scenario in my head. The good, the bad, the ugly. I tried so hard to stay positive and we did a pretty good job of that until it was confirmed…
16 hours. The worst 16 hours of waiting. My mom, Hank, and I were at the Cincinnati Airport, Hank and I were getting ready to board a plane to San Diego, we still didn’t know. I was in the bathroom, my phone rang, it was Mandy (one of my best friends, one of “the Bettys”). Mandy was at the Hanger where Ryan and Dave last took off from, with the police dept, fire dept, NTSB, FAA…. (I think that is who was all there, I could be wrong) My mom answered, Mandy told her, my mom told me, I didn’t believe her. I called Mandy back, I had to hear it from her, she said it, “Betty, it’s been confirmed fatal”
I was standing against a glass railing, there was a small blue airplane hanging above me. My heart, my brain, my whole existence left my body in that moment. They just floated above me and were there when I needed them. I don’t even think I cried, I was just going through the motions, I was in shock. My first logical thought “I need to call Ryan’s Dad”
Id give anything to hear those words “Just Landed” on August 22, 2018 … the day our lives changed forever.