Kendall Jackson, a paramedic in Kake, interacts often with Guardian Flight personnel as they make medical flights to the small Southeast Alaska village.
One interaction in particular stands out to her. During one medical call, Jackson told Guardian Flight nurse Stacie Rae Morse that Jackson considered herself “just an ambulance driver.”
“Honey,” Morse told her, “you’re not just anything.”
Morse — along with pilot Patrick Coyle, flight paramedic Margaret Langston and Morse’s unborn child she planned to name Delta Rae — was honored in a memorial ceremony Friday at the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé auditorium. Their plane crashed while on a medevac trip to Kake on the night of Jan. 29, and the crash claimed their lives.
Stories like Jackson’s were the norm, as friends and colleagues remembered the trio as caring, impactful people.
Co-workers, Guardian officials and representatives from the Village of Kake all shared memories of the three. Upwards of 300 people showed up to the memorial, including family members and dozens of first responders and people in uniform. At one point in the 90-minute ceremony, members of each family were presented with an American flag.
Langston’s adult son Anthony Scott said afterward the segment with representatives from Kake was a highlight.
“I really felt the love and support from the Juneau community and all communities involved,” Scott said. “I really appreciate that.”
Those who spoke about her remembered Langston as a warm, kind person who was always willing to give. As Guardian team member Ben Wagner said during the ceremony, Langston was always trying to help people, even in her final hours.
Colleagues remembered Coyle as funny and enthusiastic. Guardian Captain Eric Magnusson read out a bio that Coyle had written for himself for an online profile where Coyle began, “I was born at a very young age,” earning more than a few laughs from the audience.
Valerie Cassidy, a flight nurse for Guardian, spoke about Morse, saying her smile was infectious and her work ethic was never-ending. She said Morse would have made a great mother.
“The world is a much better place for having had all three of Pat, Margaret and Stacie in it,” Cassidy said, “and there will be a hole left unfilled.”
The ceremony included a flyover with Temsco helicopters outside the school and a lengthy speech from Alaska Native Brotherhood certified elder Father Michael Oleksa.
Oleksa made the point that to be a real, genuine human being, a person must be willing to be selfless. They must learn to sacrifice something for others and who care more for others than themselves, he said.
“We’re honoring three real human beings today,” Oleksa said, adding that the ceremony was also honoring first responders in all fields.
Derek Lastberger, whose brother Dylan was engaged to Morse, said afterward that Oleksa’s speech was one of the highlights, but he thought the whole memorial service was very well done and respectful. Guardian coordinated with multiple groups to organize the ceremony.
The portion of the ceremony that elicited one of the biggest emotional responses was a flight communication that was made specifically for the ceremony. The dispatch, which was made to sound like a call from a headquarters to a flight crew, was a message to the victims.
The dispatch told the crew, “you have all completed your service here. Now it’s time to rest.” Following a moment of silence, the dispatch finished with a farewell:
“Pat, Margaret, Stacie and Delta Rae, may you rest in peace knowing your strength lives on. Thank you for your commitment, service and ultimate sacrifice. You are cleared to ascend. Only blue skies and tail winds ahead for you. Godspeed and high flight. We’ll carry you with us from here. Dispatch clear.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.