November 9, 2010
Winston Churchill once said, "If you’re going through hell, just keep going."
For Midway resident Heidi McGowan, her personal journey though hell began September 11 of this year, the night her husband Bruce died tragically in an accident on I-80. Bruce, a firefighter and paramedic with Unified Fire Authority, was hit head-on by a driver who crossed the median, leaving behind Heidi and their two daughters, Stella, age 5, and Ruby, age 3.
But despite their unimaginable heartache, Heidi and her girls have found something to be thankful for this season. "I’m very touched by the outpour of generosity by people I don’t know and who didn’t even know my husband. It’s really been very humbling. In this awful time of insecurity, it makes us feel a little more safe," Heidi said.
One of the many examples of this show of support came a few weeks ago when she learned a couple of her friends, along with a committee of strangers, had decided to hold a 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving to benefit her and her daughters.
One of the race organizers, Danya Crawford, lives near Heidi and has two daughters the same age as Stella and Ruby. "There are a lot of people in the community that know and love Heidi and we wanted to do something," Danya said. "We’re just so heartbroken for her. Bruce’s absence leaves a huge hole in the world."
Danya, who has helped organize the annual Turkey Trot in Midway for the past few years, said the entire committee agreed this year the beneficiaries needed to be the McGowans. "Even those that didn’t personally know Heidi knew she was hurting, and we all agreed this would be a good way to help."
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Danya explained that this race doesn’t have a typical registration fee. Rather, organizers are asking people to donate what they can. The 5K starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day at the Midway Town Hall and everything raised will be donated to Heidi and her girls. "This is a great race for everybody. You can run, jog, or leisurely walk. Kids can ride their bikes and parents can push strollers. Though there are prizes for the fastest runners, this isn’t necessarily a race for time. It’s a race for Bruce’s memory."
A memory Heidi is determined to keep alive for Stella and Ruby. "They’re so young. Part of me is afraid they won’t remember him, but then I see all of the people who are helping us in his honor. That will be his legacy to his girls — that people loved him enough to make sure we are taken care of for him."
Of course, Bruce’s legacy goes far beyond a 5K race on Thanksgiving. In addition to the cards, flowers, dinners and other shows of support, Bruce’s colleagues with Unified Fire Authority recently helped the family finish renovating their home, so Heidi and the girls could move back in.
"We were in a rental all summer as we remodeled our house. Bruce’s co-workers have come by every single day to finish projects on our home. We were able to move back in a few weeks ago, which was bittersweet. Bruce never got to see our finished home, but this is where he wanted us to be. Bruce loved his job and I think a good deal of why is because of the integrity and compassion of the people he worked with."
And though Heidi says she continues to be amazed daily by the compassion of others, she understands the need for people to reach out.
"Pain is the unifying thread of all humanity. It’s the ultimate equalizer. We all feel hurt. It’s what allows us to hurt for others."
And as you hurt for Heidi and the hell she’s going through, remember that on November 25 you can offer your support and encourage her to just keep going.
For more information or to register for the Turkey Trot, visit http://www.lyndenlegacy.com.
Amy Roberts is the public relations director for Park City Medical Center. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. In her spare time, Amy can be found skiing, mountain biking, hiking, running, and playing soccer.