"We're stronger now"

On Dec. 20, 1990, Calvin and Linda Jo Hatch and five of their seven children traveled over the snow-covered mountain pass from their home in Fairfield, Mont., to Big Fork. Their eldest daughter, Jodie, and Mike Perry had been married in the Idaho Falls Temple a few days earlier. In the temple, Brother Hatch had expressed his love for each family member. Now, the Hatch family was to take part in a wedding reception in Big Fork.

But that reception was never held.As the family drove along in the treacherous 20-degree-below-zero weather, they followed a snowplow. Perhaps blinded by a cloud of snow tossed up by the snowplow, an oncoming car swerved and struck the Hatch family's car head on.

The twisted wreckage exacted a severe toll. Brother Hatch did not survive. Sister Hatch and several of her children were trapped in the car for an hour and 45 minutes. When they were freed and transported by helicopter to the hospital in Missoula, doctors found that Sister Hatch's arteries were severed at her temple and she had lost five units of blood.

"There is no medical reason why you survived," doctors later told her.

The children were seriously injured as well. Carrie, then 18, suffered 14 broken bones. Adam, then 12, suffered a broken femur. Carson, then 11, suffered a depressed skull fracture.

But it was only a matter of minutes before an outpouring of love began that has never ended. Mike's father, Lee C. Perry, who was in a following car, immediately gave a priesthood blessing to each member of the family. After the family was taken to the hospital, friends and the community rallied with support. In Missoula, relatives of the Hatches were taken in by members. In Fairfield, friends took over feeding the family's cattle.

Numerous people attended Brother Hatch's funeral, and a great outpouring of love was evident.

The community in Missoula provided Christmas gifts for the children. Later, the community in Fairfield held a benefit for the Hatch family. The Fairfield Ward helped with meals for months afterwards.

"The hardest thing was missing Cal and missing his support," said Sister Hatch. "We won't ever know why this happened to us, until later," she reflected. "But I think it has made us a closer, stronger family. It has also brought the community closer and made the community stronger." - John L. Hart

(Another in a series of "Shining Moments." Illustration by Deseret News artist Reed McGregor.)

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