Southern Flight 242: Bringing My Father Home

will coley share your storyMaking this radio story was good for me. That’s what my therapist told me. And I agree.

My father’s death in a plane crash has always been part of the story that my family tells about ourselves. I’ve lived with the repercussions of that story for 35 years, ever since I was 7 years old. I’ve discussed it in therapy but I hadn’t thought about the objective reality of the crash until recently.

Why did this take 35 years? It could have been kickstarted by a series of coincidences. But, as often happens with mental health, it was simply the right time. Therapy has been called the “talking cure.” But I’d never really thought that this could be augmented by making something (maybe a “creating or making cure”?). Together, these approaches brought me to a new understanding of this foundational story in my life.

I didn’t set out to “fact check” the story of the plane crash. It was more about meeting other people who had been affected by it. I decided to document this by recording what I found. These weren’t easy discussions, but recording with audio and not video meant that, even though I had their permission to record, we often forgot about the microphone. Then I had hours of audio recordings and had to figure out what to do with them.

When radio producers have the time, they often transcribe their interviews to find the best clips for the story. But since I had experienced these interviews, I resisted listening to them again. Instead I hired others to transcribe and used these transcriptions to draft a script for my editors. I also had several cassette tapes that I resisted listening to. As a result, I was one step away from the emotion of the story. Prodded by my editors (and my therapist), I started listening to and editing together all the audio I had. This listening and editing became almost therapeutic. I connected to it in a new way and I think this showed in my narration.

It was risky putting my story out there for the world to hear. But I’ve been reassured that I made the right decision. I’ve been amazed by the feedback and how people have connected with the story. I’m continually reminded that we learn from each others’ stories. I’d encourage you to consider doing the same with your own stories—to make sense of them and share this with others.

Learn how Will made his radio story, and how you can make your own, through his post on

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  • Dawn

    February 15th, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    Funny how sometimes sharing the things that are the most intimate and private begin to feel almost scared and thus kind of scary to share with others. But sharing can be so healing, so cathartic, and can let you actually let go of some of that pain that you have been holding on to. It must feel at the beginning like this would dredge up old painful memories, and what good would it do to bring those up again and again? But you would be surprised how this sharing can almost be freeing, a time to shake off the chains that have bound you and allow yourself to just remember but not to be so hurt by the pain of witholding any longer.

  • Linda

    February 17th, 2014 at 4:36 AM

    For you it isn’t a matter of checking thr facts to make sure that you got everything correct.
    That’s beside the point because you know the way that this affected you, and that is what matters the most.
    Good for you for being strong enough to do this, to get the story out there, and I hope that this will in some small way help the healing process for you.

  • tawny

    February 17th, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Those kinds of shares are the hardest, the scariest, but the ones with the biggest payoffs, because they are helping you and they are helping others too

  • Michelle

    February 18th, 2014 at 3:48 AM

    People are always talking to me about the importance of talking about my feelings and putting them out there to share, but why when talking about it only makes me feel worse? There are never those times when I feel like I just want to get it off my chest and let the world know what’s going on. Why would I want to do that when NOT talking is what keeps it all in check?

  • zee

    February 21st, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    This sounds like it is so much a part of you and your identity, that is why in the end it probably felt so imperative for you to share that story.

    I am so proud of you because I know that at times it is difficult to talk about these things and remaining so that it continues to help you by talking through those feelings instead of overwhelming and harming you.

    I hope that there are others reading who share that same inspiration and that this compels them to share their own stories in a way that helps them process them, not feel like they have to hide behind them anymore.

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