It's tough to forget this day a year ago when a terrible plane crash in the Superstition Mountains claimed the lives of six people, including three children for the east valley and their father.
She's one of the strongest people I've ever met. Losing three children in an instant, left to carry on with the memories, the questions and the loss.
Karen Perry returned to the Superstition Mountains this week.
"As much as I love the mountain, my children died there too, so it's very emotional for me."
She sees it everyday -- right outside her front door. She's hiked to the crash site twice.
"Obviously some kind soul that came left a memorial here and left some toys and pictures," she said.
Perry will return again this weekend.
"It's emotional for me because to me, that's the grave site of my children."
A year since that awful night and the painful days that followed.
Does it feel like a year to her?
Karen replied, "It's been surreal. No it doesn't to me..like it happened yesterday."
Perry's children -- Morgan, 9, Logan, 8, and Luke, 6, boarded a plane with their father Shawn to spend Thanksgiving in Safford. Minutes after departing Mesa's Falcon Field, the plan inexplicably plowed into the mountain, killing all six on board.
"It's not something that goes away, losing your kids is not something you get over."
She was sick in bed that night. Her nanny had dropped the kids off at the airport. She awoke to hear the phone ringing.
"I got a phone call from the children's nanny at about 8 p.m. who'd seen the news," she said.
For moths afterwards, she was in a fog.
"Remember bits and pieces but it's almost like being in an accident yourself and you know waking up in the hospital and not having a lot of memory of what happened, I guess it's our way of protecting ourselves from the pain of it. I think two or three months went by before I have any recollection of what happened on a daily basis."
What she does remember, clearly, is how the community grieved along with her.
"Big boxes of mail started coming in from the post office and they would leave big boxes everyday..I was very touched," she said. "The way the community and really the whole world reached out to me after the accident."
In the years since the crash, she's discovered hundreds of videos and photos of her children. She rarely looked at them when they were alive -- she was too busy with life, too busy raising them.
"It's very fun for me to go look through their photos. I know some people can't do that, but I've got lots of videos and lots of photos and it makes me smile."
After the crash, she stumbled upon a treasure Luke had left her.
"My youngest got ahold of my computer and got ahold of a photo. He took hundreds of pictures of himself and left that as a gift to me."
Karen wants to know every detail of the crash, no matter how painful.
In May, we went to a Phoenix salvage yard to view the wreckage for the first time.
One of the many difficult steps she's taken in the past 365 days.
She's hiked up to the crash site twice in the past year -- an eight hour trip.
"It gives me a sense of peace to go up there and a sense of peace to come here..it's a memory for me and it brings me closer to the last time I saw them," she said.
And often, she comes to a certain spot.
"For me it's more comforting to be near their memories and close to where they passed away."
If there's one thing she's learned in the past year, it's take nothing for granted.
"Appreciate what you have and be grateful for it. I'm so grateful that I had those children even for the short amount of time I had them with me."
And she's grateful to the community that helped her make it through this past year.
"Thank you so much for all the support and love. It's just been overwhelming it's been wonderful to see that side of people."
Somehow, she's moved forward. Returning to her job as a flight attendant and she's in a relationship.
"I met a wonderful man back in May when I went back to work and that's made a huge difference and it's helped me in healing, it's helped me appreciate everything in my life," she said.
Karen says she is so touched by how the entire community and complete strangers have reached out to her after the crash. She adds that the outpouring of support got her through this.
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