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Sharon and Danny Anderson
I first encountered Sharon and Danny Anderson on September 29th, 2007. They weren't in much of a mood to talk at the time though.
It was the day of the second "Emily's Ride", commemorating Emily Keyes and the students of Platte Canyon High School. That morning I had spent with my wife and son, watching the motorcycles thunder past us on their way to Platte Canyon High School. The 2007 ride raised over $26,000 for local charities. When the last bike had passed, we headed down towards Denver for an afternoon of fun at a local park. While returning home via a back road, we noticed that traffic on Highway 285 was stopped, apparently the result of a motorcycle accident. I parked on the side road and walked up to the location with my camera, since no media seemed to be on-scene.
I shot a number of photos and talked to the witnesses and first responders. It was a single-vehicle accident involving one of the motorcycles from the Ride, carrying a couple from the Denver metro area. They had lost control of their bike where traffic abruptly stopped in a dangerous construction zone, and had been thrown and landed on the pavement. They were both banged up, but didn't initially seem all that bad off. Both were conscious and communicating. They had both worn helmets and all the right protective riding gear. It seemed like an excellent demonstration of how to survive a motorcycle accident. I took down notes and submitted the story and photos, but it was a such a minor incident that it never really made the news. I mostly forgot about it. Time passed.
A couple of months ago I was contacted through our local community web site, Pinecam.com, by a party who knew of the Andersons and was seeking anyone who knew anything about the accident that day. I learned that Sharon and Danny were in fact very seriously injured both mentally and physically. Danny has recovered enough to return to work at his job despite some long-term hand and skeletal damage from impacting and sliding on the pavement. Sharon did not fare as well, having suffered some serious head and facial injuries from tumbling numerous times, despite wearing her helmet and a mouth guard. Sharon's recovery has been impressive, but she still has some significant mental disruption, seizures and physical handicaps. She can no longer drive or work, has difficulty speaking and even has trouble taking her own medications.
I learned that the Andersons could not even recall what had happened for most of that day. Their only knowledge of how they got to their current situation was the basic police reports combined with the visible damage done to themselves and their motorcycle. Due to their brain trauma, neither had any recollection of even where the incident had happened.
After talking with them by e-mail, I arranged to provide them with my photos and notes, as well as meet them in person later to take them to the scene of the accident and help them understand the fateful day that had changed their lives. They knew they had been participating in Emily's Ride that day, trying to make a difference in the lives of others who's lives had been turned upside down. They knew they had gone to Platte Canyon High School, and had started home, but after that the recollection became blurry.
After many false starts due to physical and medical relapses as well as further tragedies in their own life, we were finally able to meet in person this past weekend, Saturday March 8th. My wife and son and I, as well as two prominent members of the Pinecam community from the Bailey area joined Sharon and Danny to try to help them put their life and memories of that day back together. After taking some time to help the Andersons prepare for what they were about to experience, I led the group back to the windblown side of Highway 285 where it all came together nearly six months ago.
As the cars, semis and yes, motorcycles roared by us that morning, I shuffled through each photo, explaining what was shown in it and pointing out where it had happened. Here is Sharon being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher, still wearing her pink "Iloveuguys" bracelet. Helping the firemen are the other motorcyclists who were there when
it happend -- no one the Andersons knew, just other well-meaning riders. The lady with the "Live to Ride, Ride to Live" leather jacket. The blonde gal carrying the oxygen equipment bag. The bearded bald guy. The clean-shaven bald guy. So many black leather jackets, sunglasses, bandanas. So much concern for their downed fellow riders. Just a few feet further down the road is where Danny came to rest. The West Metro firefighters lifted him (no small feat -- he's a big guy with bulging muscles) with his bracelet-adorned arms crossed, holding an IV fluid bag high as they loaded him. And finally, there stands their scraped up motorcycle, stood off to the side and later wheeled out of the away by a couple of helpful riders.
We walked backward from where they came to rest, pacing off the 50 feet or so the accident report says they slid or tumbled after flying from their bike. And then a few feet more where a dip in the pavement probably was the reason they lost control while braking. We looked through the sad debris at the roadside for any sign of the precious intangibles they had lost that day, but all we found was a broken ice scraper.
Sharon phrased it best that morning as we she wept in our arms. "So this is where the old Sharon died that day." Danny helped his wife shoulder on through the emotions, and we helped him keep going himself.
Since West Metro Fire has a station just a mile South of the highway in Willow Springs, I offered to take the Andersons there and see if they could meet anyone who had helped them that day. Sharon said, "If I could just find someone and tell them thank you." When we arrived the station parking lot had several cars in it, but the station was uninhabited and one truck bay was empty. They were out on a call. We decided to wait around a few minutes to see when they would return, and very shortly the fire truck came back.
What a piece of luck that the first person off the truck was in fact a firefighter named Anderson (no relation!) -- the very man seen directing the response at the scene back in September. When Sharon and Danny spoke with him he immediately remembered their incident and was happy to talk to them and relate all that he recalled about that fateful day.
When they were finished, Sharon and Danny tearfully thanked the firefighters for everything they'd done back in September, as well as on this March morning. The impact of the morning's events began to take a toll on Sharon and she began to feel a seizure coming on -- not an uncommon occurrence now. The firefighters immediately had her lie down and administered oxygen, probably from the very same green oxygen kit seen in the photos from September. After reviving Sharon and making her promise to dial 911 or go to the hospital if it hit her again, the firefighters had to pack up and run to another call of their own eventful day.
Sharon and Danny are still seeking to regain the life and persons they lost that afternoon they came out for a motorcycle ride on a beautiful Colorado autumn day. A ride they'd already done the year before to benefit Emily Keyes and the other students of Platte Canyon High School. Sharon would like to be able to work and drive again, but is making slow progress with her rehabilitation and physical and mental therapy. Danny is less physically hurt, but cries nearly every day, believing he is to blame for his wife's condition because he should have been able to do something to prevent the accident.
The Andersons no longer have their motorcycle. It was totaled in the accident. They both hope to find a way to participate in 2008's Emily's Parade, perhaps on a three-wheel motorcycle with another rider.
They also recently lost Sharon's brother, who was helping take care of them, to an unrelated accident.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.
Sharon and Danny would like to do their part to raise awareness of this event. They hope by doing so they will make the world a better place for future brain-injury victims. They want to show the world that they're not down and out or done, and are going to get back up and go do Emily's Parade again, and that others should join them. They'd like to remind people that motorcycle safety is the reason they're alive at all today.
They would also like to identify and get in touch with the unknown riders from that day who helped them when they fell. Their faces are all so clear in the photos, helping and concerned. They'd love to find any more pieces of the puzzle explaining what happened and how, to try to put to rest some of empty spaces in their minds and hearts.
If you'd like to contact the Andersons, you can email:
If you'd like to donate to Sharon and Danny, you can visit any Colorado 1stBank location and tell them you'd like to donate to the Sharon and Danny Anderson Benefit Fund.
- KCNC CBS Channel 4 Denver Pay it 4ward news story on the Andersons
- My Emily's Parade 2007 Photos
- Emily's Parade 2007 Video (first 4 minutes)
- Columbine 2 (Platte) Canyon 2006 Ride (20 minutes)
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