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Jim Kenyon: It’s hard to miss the signs of support for a teen in a coma after a car crash

  • Sierra Longmoore, 17, of Newbury, Vt., remains at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after suffering a life-threatening head injury in a single-car crash on July 8, 2020. (Family photograph)

  • Jim Kenyon. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Columnist
Published: 7/25/2020 9:35:12 PM
Modified: 7/25/2020 9:37:46 PM

Starting in about Fairlee, “#SierraStrong” yard signs and sandwich boards dot the Vermont countryside for miles. They’re found in front of farmhouses, churches, banks and Bradford’s municipal building.

Up and down Route 5, people are rooting — and praying — for 17-year-old Sierra Longmoore, who suffered a life-threatening head injury in a one-car crash in Newbury, Vt., 2½ weeks ago.

Longmoore was airlifted by DHART to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where she remained in critical condition Saturday.

On the morning of July 8, Longmoore was driving to her babysitting job shortly before 8. She apparently lost control of her family’s 2006 BMW SUV on a sharp turn while traveling along Snake Road — a steep, winding asphalt road that’s a shortcut to Route 5 from the Longmoores’ home near the Bradford-Newbury line.

Snake Road resident Bill Kearney was having a bowl of cereal in his kitchen when he heard an “ugly (crashing) sound” that came from down the hill.

Kearney jumped in his car and quickly came upon Longmoore’s mangled SUV. The car had flipped multiple times and landed against an oak tree. (Longmoore was wearing a seatbelt and speed was “believed to be a major factor” in the crash, according to a Vermont State Police news release.)

Another neighbor, Stacie Peyrat, who had also heard the crash, arrived ahead of Kearney and was already checking on Longmoore, who appeared unconscious. They tried calling 911, but cellphone service was spotty. Kearney rushed home to call for medical help, but by that time, Peyrat had been able to get through to 911.

In the time that it took Kearney to get back to the scene, a passerby had found Longmoore’s name and home address in her purse, which rested in the middle of the road.

Kearney, a private school teacher, didn’t know her family, but was familiar with the area from bike rides. He drove to Steven and Amy Longmoore’s house to break the news. The Longmoores, who have five children, were getting ready to leave on a family vacation to Maine later in the day.

Steven Longmoore told me that his family would be ever grateful to Kearney, Peyrat and the other strangers who came to his daughter’s aide.

On Tuesday, while checking out Snake Road, I saw Kearney — cradling his infant daughter in his arms — walking across his lawn. Kearney downplayed his role, offering a simple explanation for why he wanted to help.

“I have three girls,” he told me.

The small signs with “#SierraStrong” etched in bold letters began popping up on roadsides more than a week ago. In Bradford, a sandwich board outside Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church announces weekend Mass times on one side and “Prayers for Sierra” on the other.

At the entrance of Oxbow High School, where Longmoore is a member of the incoming senior class, “Sierra Strong” blinks every few seconds on a large message board.

Sierra, an infielder on Oxbow’s softball team, which had its season canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, is “just a really, really sweet girl,” said Lomond Richardson, Oxbow’s school counseling coordinator.

Sierra has a twin sister, Aspen. “It’s unusual to see one without the other,” Richardson said. “They’re incredibly close.”

Sierra and Aspen were born prematurely, spending more than a month in DHMC’s neonatal intensive care unit. “She’s been here before,” Steven Longmoore said. “She’s a fighter.”

Bradford and neighboring towns have a history of uniting in the face of tragedy, said Richardson, who grew up in the area. Still, she’s found the response to Sierra’s crash to be most remarkable. “It’s restored my faith in our communities,” she said.

The Longmoores have deep ties to the Bradford community. Steven Longmoore is a 1994 Oxbow High graduate, and his parents still live in town.

But Richardson suspects there’s something else going on as well. The monthslong pandemic has left people feeling isolated and downhearted by events beyond their control.

“This is an opportunity for people to do something positive,” said Richardson, who is serving as the point person between the Longmoores and the community. “They want to help.”

Richardson started out by asking the Oxbow staff for donations to support the Longmoores. Shortly thereafter, she began hearing from people outside the school who wanted to contribute. Gladstone Creamery’s ice cream shop in Fairlee donated part of their proceeds on a recent weekend.

“The way people have supported us and come together is overwhelming,” Amy Longmoore said.

Last Tuesday, Cara Dyke, an Orford photographer, handed out about 100 “#SierraStrong” yard signs at a downtown Bradford park. With her supply running out, she’s ordered more. The signs, which feature three photos of Sierra, including one with her twin sister, sell for $20 each.

The money will go to the Longmoores to help with living expenses, including gas and food cards. “It’s one stress they don’t have to worry about,” Dyke said.

The Longmoores have medical insurance through Steven’s job, which eases a big financial worry. (He’s a district manager for Home Depot. Amy has her own marketing business.)

The family is already thinking about ways to “give back” some of the donations they’re receiving to worthy causes. “We have a lot of thank-yous to give out, and it will never be enough,” Steven Longmoore said.

While Sierra remains in a coma, her father told me that doctors are “more optimistic now than they were in the beginning.”

Still, they don’t know what the future will bring. “When you have a child going through something like this, you don’t eat, you don’t sleep,” he said.

The community support, he added, “gets us through the tough days.”

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.




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