Merry Christmas

From me, Dustin, Andy, Jeremy and the rest of the Herald-Times/Hoosier Scoop staff, a hearty Merry Christmas to all of you. We appreciate your support all year long, and sincerely hope this Christmas brings you whatever you are looking for.

If you have the time, and the inclination, two stories touched me this Christmas Eve, as I traveled from Las Vegas to Bloomington.

The first came from Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy, and it profiles the Phillips family months after the patriarch, Bill, tragically died in a plane crash. The second-youngest of his four sons, Paul, is a freshman tight end at Indiana.

It’s a beautiful story, about tragedy, heroism and family. You cannot help but be impressed by the youngest boy, 13-year-old Willy.

Bowman had a limited supply of Demerol and Valium, which she intended to divide up among the survivors.

“No,” said Willy. “Please give my share to somebody else.” While his dad’s body remained in the fuselage, he spent the night under the wing, huddling for warmth with Bowman.

Some 17 hours after the crash Willy was airlifted to the Providence Medical Center in Anchorage. And what did he remember of that flight? “Not too much,” says Willy. “I had to pee really bad when I got there. It’d been about 12 hours… .”

A few days later Andrew handed him the phone. Harbaugh wanted to talk to Willy. “He’s a hero,” says Harbaugh, recalling that conversation. “I wanted to talk to a hero.”

The second is from the Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, and it’s the best kind of story: simple, sweet and inspiring. It focuses on a family, and a 17-year-old high school football player that was a stranger a few months ago, but now comes to the home four nights a week to lift a severely challenged 8-year-old boy up the stairs that lead to his room.

And so Rudy had barely knocked on the door Tuesday night before Ben was at it, jumping up and down, yelling, “Rudy is here! Rudy is here!’’

He greeted the Parkers, and went over to Sammy, gently lifting the boy’s left arm and sliding his hands under his back, the way Rudy’s father, a professional caregiver, had shown him. He lifted Sammy and held him close to his chest, and as the boy made his joyful O, Rudy carefully maneuvered him around the corners on the narrow stairway.

You couldn’t help but be struck by the painful contrast between the two boys: The robust athlete cradling the pale, helpless child; the young man preparing to go out into the world carrying someone who never will.

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