This is Maryellen.
Sometimes firefighters become broken. An unwary step, one ski run too many, a twist or a turn, can end a season or a career. One summer, I was one of them, left behind to manage the helibase with a knee injury that could have gone either way. Maryellen helped me come back.
She was the physician's assistant at the office of the doctor who performed my surgery. The doctor was busy and often away (we joked at work that our injuries probably provided him a new wing on his house), so I would see her instead. As I progressed from crutches, to a brace, to tentative running steps, she was a constant, always greeting me with a smile and encouragement.
Then she vanished.
She drove away from her house in her Subaru and was never seen again. Her vehicle was never found.
I helped search for her. It was cold then, the short Alaskan summer already gone, and I shivered as I drove up crooked driveways and back roads around Fairbanks. If she was outside in this weather, how could she survive?
Fifteen years, and she is still missing.
I was temporarily broken, and Maryellen was one of the people who ensured I didn't stay that way. I continue to be grateful.
Where are you, Maryellen? It's been so long.