Saturday, January 11, 2014

Kindness of Strangers: The Smith Plane Search

For the past month, myself and thousands of others have been doing our best to assist the search and rescue effort to find the Smith family, whose plane went missing after taking off from Baker City. It was an effort that brought a lot of people together and stretched the boundaries of technology used in search and rescue, and it was incredible.

I only know the Smiths through Steve and Terri, who are kind and supportive customers at the theater. When I heard that their family was missing, my heart sank for them. So in early December when a facebook page was created to bring people together to analyze satellite imagery (and later, still images derived from GoPro videos) to try to locate this family, I jumped on board. I wasn't able to do much, and I may not have had the patience and dedication that the others had, but I witnessed all that occurred on that page, watching it like a hawk nearly every hour of every day. Yesterday, the plane was found. I saw Terri's update on my phone while I was waiting at the bank, and I was rendered speechless. The finality of finding the plane and the ending of the search effort was such a bittersweet and jarring moment. I can't imagine how this same moment felt for people who actually knew and loved the missing members of this family.

I was amazed and humbled by the effort put forth by so many people to find this family. My faith in humanity was almost entirely restored in watching so many people come together for a common goal all the while treating each other with nothing but decency and respect, even on the internet where people often feel more free to treat each other harshly.

The thing is, my faith in humanity needed restoration. And it might mean something to someone to know how this experience has had a positive affect on my life. In my personal life and through my volunteer efforts in the community, I've experienced a few too many instances lately of people (including myself) working against each other with fear, jealousy, animosity, defensiveness in our hearts, unwilling to let bygones be bygones and move forward in a positive way. Too often, I see people criticize the actions of others without first trying to understand those actions. At the same time, I see people hunker down with their bad attitudes unwilling to get up and help. I didn't see any of that with the Smith plane search. I saw the opposite. It was exactly what I needed, and it meant everything to me at this time in my life.

Watching this search and rescue effort unfold, seeing people disrupting and rearranging their daily lives to work for the common good of finding the missing plane against all odds and then succeeding was a moving experience.

Dale, Daniel, Sheree, Amber and Jonathan brought a lot of people together, helped to create many new friendships and changed the reality of search and rescue forever. This is small consolation for their hurting loved ones, but it really is significant.

Thank you to the Smith family, especially Terri, for letting me be a part of your lives this past month via the search effort.  


  1. I am thinking about subscribing to that new newspaper because I'm always the last to here about this stuff.

  2. The Herald has written a few articles, I think this one was really nice:

    The Baker County Press, being new, wasn't around to write about this when it happened but hopefully they'll write about it next week.