STEAD, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- It is with a heavy heart and mixed emotions that Bill Elvin and his family returned to the Stead Airport for this year’s Travel.com Reno Air Races.
Their mother, Cherie, was killed instantly last year along with nine other spectators as a P-51 Mustang crashed, scattering debris into the VIP boxes.
“I know it's going to be difficult, being the anniversary and remembering mom, it will be tough," Bill says.
The loss of a wife and mother is not all this family suffered.
Bill, his father Chuck, brother Brian and sister-in-law Linda all lost parts of their right legs in the tragedy.
It was unclear until about three weeks ago if they would come, but Bill says the air races were a family tradition since the 1990s, that he wants to continue.
"We had to come back to honor the memory of my mother because she loved being here, loved the races ad she loved every part of this," Bill says.
Cherie Elvin not only loved the planes and the pilots. What she loved more was the opportunity to get her four sons and their families together every year to enjoy their passion for planes.
“The air races have been a really important part of our family life, because of being together and absolutely we don’t want to see that end for anybody," Bill says.
Bill admits it hasn't been easy to return. The unmistakable sounds of vintage planes flying overhead brought back painful and scary memories.
"The first time the planes went by, I thought I was fine, but when the sounds hit me, it made me duck and cover kind of," Bill says.
It is that understandable fear that Bill wanted to conquer for himself and for his children this past weekend. His 13 and 11-year-old sons were apprehensive about their parents heading back out to the races, but he wanted to teach them about the importance of family and living life in the face of adversity.
Bill says he sat them both down to tell them about their decision to go back to the same spot they lost their beloved mother.
“They were a little pensive about it, but they were supportive and understanding why I needed to come back out, and face my fear," Bill says.
Since the family arrived on Friday, they have been reconnected with others who suffered that day as well, but also with the first responders and people who helped to save their lives.
Bill says his family misses Cherie dearly and her absence as a loving, integral part of the Elvin family is tough. As their hearts heal, their physical injuries are getting better too. Bill and his siblings are now walking with the help of prosthetics and are encouraging the patriarch of the family Chuck Elvin to get there too.
“My father is walking with a walker, which we like for him to do better, but we have to give him some break, he is 75!" Bill says.
The Elvins say they will be back to Reno as long as the planes are flying, carrying on the memory of their mother and the values she instilled in them.
"You can't let a single event on one horrific day end 49 years of fantastic memories and tradition," Bill says. "I hope they keep them going forever."