Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trying To Move On In 2013

One of my goals for 2013 was to close out “old chapters” of my life and move on.  This process included my archiving old documents, photos and keepsakes as best I could. While doing this, I came across forgotten gems that brought back wonderful memories. I found items I’d rather never had been reminded of and a few I quickly burned from embarrassment and fear of somebody getting their grubby hands on them and having fun at my expense.

I came across a couple photos that I had no idea existed. They were of my oldest friend in the world and they brought back a flood of memories and some tears. Her name was Cyd Cutter, we met in 1972 as her mother and my grandmother were at some sort of exercise class; I’ll never forget that day. Cyd was my best friend until the day she died in 2008. We introduced ourselves as “brother and sister” and many people in our circle didn't know we weren't related. I loved Cyd with all my heart and the world was such a better place when she was alive.

I found out about my friends death in a jolting way.  I received a call from her young son. When I answered he said “mom’s dead”. I was not sure what I was being told and I asked him to repeat what he said. He repeated with “yeah, she’s dead, I found her on the bathroom floor”. I asked when did this happen expecting a response of yesterday or even last night but that wasn't the case. He said to me “I found her just now; she’s on the floor dead.

I was in shambles and to make matters worse.  My previous marriage was ending and as a result, my former wife had no room for kindness or empathy. It was a brutal moment in my life.

My best friends’ dad had the same name but it was spelled “Cid”. Cid Cutter was a great guy who was very successful. But he was most famous for his being the founder of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and arguably leaving one of the biggest legacies in the state of New Mexico. Mr. Cutter died in 2011 and his passing was a great loss.

So several days after finding the photos of my old friend, I jumped back into my project. In the very first box I opened, I came across a bunch of old legal documents. I quickly realized this paperwork was from a lawsuit stemming from the death of my father and pregnant step-mother in 1982.  I'd never read them before, didn't want to, it was too painful. But 30 years,10 months and 26 days after my dad and step-mom were killed, I did.

I was hit with something I had absolutely no idea about and wouldn't have guessed in a million years. I was seeing the name “Cid Cutter” and "World Balloons" everywhere.  It appeared that my best friend’s father was some sort of expert witness but I was wrong. It was Cid Cutter and his company World Balloons who owned and operated the balloon that my father and step-mother were killed in.

I couldn't possibly calculate the hours and days I spent with my best friend and her family and she with mine. Yet never once did anybody tell me, hers or mine, the connection.
The last time I saw Mr. Cutter, I had Thanksgiving with his family in 2009 at his house. During this holiday gathering, another guest brought up the El Globo Grande crash not knowing who I was. Mr. Cutter was standing there, looked at me and said "Tragic, just tragic". At the time I had no idea.

Oddly enough, once I had time to absorb what I’d just learned during my archiving project, I started wondering what the hell was that horrible experience like for Mr. Cutter and his family. What was it like for my best friend? Especially considering how close we were. Having my regular involvement with the family had to have been an uncomfortable reminder that made their recovery and ability to move on difficult.

But here is another intense twist.  The balloon my parents were killed in was supposed to have another passenger – me.  I cancelled at the last minute for a cute blonde I’d just me a few days before in California. She was in town and wanted to go to an early movie with me; a date! So I didn't go to the Balloon Fiesta and I’m alive today.  And the cute blonde was Mr. Cutter’s niece.

This story isn't done yet. After I learn about the Cutter/World Balloon involvement, I call an old friend who is into ballooning, knows the Cutters well and tell her this story.  When I'm done, she tells me "well I've got a story for you"!   She goes on to tell me that she'd just returned from a ballooning event in France.  One day while the balloons were down, she went to a local cafe. While having a cup of coffee she struck up a conversation with a guy at the next table.  The conversation turns to balloons, then Albuquerque, then the Balloon Fiesta.  Then this guy tells my friend about a horrible experience he had with a balloon and how it has haunted him ever since.

Apparently, this man had flown from Europe to New Mexico to go to the Balloon Fiesta. Somehow he ended up with 2 tickets to go up in a balloon. For some reason he gave his tickets away. Not long after that, there was an announcement that there had been a balloon crash.  Then a few minutes later, he learned the balloon that crashed was the very same balloon that he'd given away his tickets for. This man knew that the couple had used his tickets because he watched them go up in the balloon. Later that day, it was confirmed that they were among the dead, along with two other people; Nick and PJ Brainard - my parents.

After the accident, this guy fell into a long and deep depression.  As a way of “coping” with what had happened, he decided to study every element of the El Globo Grande wreck to see if there was something he could do to help prevent future hot air balloon tragedies. This man eventually went on to invent a fireproof fabric for hot air balloons that is apparently now used throughout the industry.

And with that, I’m going to pick up old friends  Cyd's  cat “Agony” (I didn't like that stupid name  Cyd named her so I renamed her to “Gonad”) who has been sitting on my lap purring while I wrote this and call it a day for October 2, 2013 – the 31’st eve of this sad event and go spend time with my children.

October 3, 1982.