It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: going through the death of their young child.
On Thanksgiving eve 2011, Karen Perry lost all three of her children – Morgan, Logan and Luke – and their father, Shawn, when their plane crashed into Superstition Mountain in Arizona minutes after takeoff.
To this day, she still has questions for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which made airspace changes in the area not long before the tragedy occurred. Perry – a lifelong pilot, skilled aviator and longtime flight attendant – says there’s no doubt the FAA’s airspace design contributed to the crash, even though pilot error was blamed for the accident.
The Arizona Pilot’s Association (APA) was a vocal opponent of the design change, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) sued the FAA for it – citing inevitable accidents – but the AOPA lost. While continuing to seek answers for the crash, Perry has been coping with her loss, in part, by appreciating what she had.
“Unexpectedly, I became pregnant at 38; I didn’t know I could conceive,” says Perry, whose story made national headlines and was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“We had another child when I was 40, and then again when I was 42. I lost them all – my children and their father – in an instant. My twin passions, my family and my work, collided into a million pieces on a mountain peak that I could see from my backyard.”
Her story is told in “Angels Three: The Karen Perry Story,” (3wingsoflife.org/book/), written by Landon J. Napoleon, a book Publishers Weekly calls “Haunting, yet inspirational.”
• “I am thankful.” She explains why: “How do I feel thankful in all that has happened? I am thankful to God for my life, I am thankful to have had these amazing little people in my life who have taught me so much. I am thankful for the outpouring of love, compassion, and human kindness that touched me very deeply. Beyond that, what can we all be thankful to God for? We can be thankful for fresh air, sunshine, for the people in our lives, for the things that we love, for being able to see, to hear, to feel. All things that God has made possible for us.”
• Even though it was never easy … When Perry was age 4, she lost her 2-year-old sister to Leukemia, her first lesson of loss and heartache. Her parents, devastated, eventually divorced. Consumed by grief, Perry’s mother couldn’t properly care for her. Custody went to Perry’s father, a 20-something who wasn’t sure he could care for the girl. He openly considered adoption, but after many tears and heartfelt pleading from his daughter, he maintained custody of her. Later, as Perry thrived in her career in aviation, she felt the pull of wanting a family, but she and her first husband couldn’t conceive. They divorced. After suffering a string of medical emergencies – involving Peritonitis, which is 99 percent fatal, and breast cancer – Perry eventually gave birth to three children with her second husband.
“That I was able to have my three angels was a blessing for which I’ll always be grateful, even though my time with them on this Earth was brief,” she says.
• She embraces hope with her non-profit, 3 Wings of Life. Recently, Perry has turned horrific tragedy into new hope as president and co-founder of the non-profit organization 3 Wings of Life. It is a faith-based, non-profit organization dedicated to embracing the unique needs of the children in her community. Among the organization’s programs is an equine assisted therapy – cognitive therapy for kids with emotional and behavioral issues using friendly and accessible horses.
“Helping others with an open heart is very affirming, and it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself to continue healing and better appreciate what you’ve been given in life,” Perry says.
About Karen Perry
On Thanksgiving eve 2011, Karen Perry’s life changed forever when her three young children and their father died in a plane that crashed into Superstition Mountain in Arizona. The story made national headlines and was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Everyone wanted to know: How does Perry, a lifelong pilot, skilled aviator and longtime flight attendant comprehend, let alone process, such a loss? “Angels Three: The Karen Perry Story,” (3wingsoflife.org/book/), written by Landon J. Napoleon, reveals a mother’s journey after unimaginable loss.