‘Nothing short of a miracle’

  • Oxbow player Sierra Longmoore, in glasses, huddles up with her softball teammates and coach Chuck Simmons following their 7-6 win over Lyndon in Bradford, Vt., on May 13, 2021. Longmoore received a life-threatening head injury in a one-car crash on July 8, 2020. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • Signs of support for Sierra Longmoore remain in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Longmoore family's church, on Route 5 in Bradford, Vt., on May 13, 2021. Longmoore received a life-threatening head injury in a one-car crash on July 8, 2020. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Oxbow's Sierra Longmoore, in glasses, and her teammate return to the bench after a between-inning huddle during their game against Lyndon in Bradford, Vt., on May 13, 2021. Longmoore received a life-threatening head injury in a one-car crash on July 8, 2020. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • During a gathering on May 19, 2021, to thank those who helped at the scene of her daughter's accident, Amy Longmoore, of Newbury, Vt., speaks about Sierra's recovery from a life-threatening head injury in a one-car crash in July 2020. Steven Longmoore, Amy's husband and father to Sierra, second from right, and her twin sister Aspen listen during the event in Newbury. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • Woodsville (N.H.) Ambulance crew members Jim Santorello, left, and Steve Robbins attend an event in Newbury, Vt., on May 19, 2021, hosted by the Longmoore family to thank those who helped at the scene of the one-car crash in Newbury that severely injured Sierra Longmoore in July 2020. Robbins and his partner Richard Guy were amongst 23 first-responders at the scene to help the teen. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2021 9:47:44 PM
Modified: 5/22/2021 9:47:41 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — Nine months after a car crash that nearly cost her everything, Sierra Longmoore stepped into a batting cage at Oxbow High.

She wasn’t expected to be there.

Sierra was critically injured on July 8 near her family’s home in Newbury, Vt. While driving to her babysitting job, Sierra lost control of her SUV, flipped multiple times and hit a tree. State police said speed was believed to be a factor.

The crash left her in a coma for nearly three weeks. Six days after the crash, doctors told Sierra’s parents — Amy and Steven Longmoore — that she wouldn’t live through the night, and she had craniotomy surgery. The family was also told that, based on tests, Sierra would be blind in her left eye and deaf in her left ear.

On Aug. 11, Sierra — still in a vegetative state, according to her mother — was moved to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. She eventually spent eight weeks rehabilitating and doing physical therapy, as she had to re-learn how to walk, talk and function as a teenage girl.

In spite of all those obstacles, Sierra entered the makeshift batting cage in Oxbow’s gymnasium on April 16, bat in hand, ready to take her first swings since the crash.

“We took her in the gym that first time and got into the batting cage, and I just broke down and cried because she was hitting balls like the Sierra I knew who was always hitting balls,” Amy said. “It was just unbelievable. She never lets anything hold her back or stop her from what she sets her mind to, which is just amazing.”

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One of Sierra’s main motivations to get through those challenges was returning to activities she enjoys. Playing shortstop for Oxbow softball was a big item on that list.

The Olympians’ 2021 season began without her. Neither Oxbow’s coaches nor Sierra’s family thought she’d be able to play again.

While her twin sister and softball teammate, Aspen, prepared for the upcoming season, Sierra continued her rehab. They’d spent so much time talking about playing together as seniors, and it had become so unlikely that even playing catch in the yard together was a momentous occasion.

They did that in March for the first time since the crash.

Those moments brought Sierra relief. Everything she’d been through and everything she’s still going through faded away, and for a brief glimpse, she felt like her old self again.

She had the same feeling stepping into the batting cage as Oxbow assistant softball coach Josh Allen pitched to her. With every swing, it became a tiny bit easier. She was less concerned about swing mechanics and more excited with every hit.

Her family watched on with equal amounts of nervousness and pride. Her parents were hesitant about Sierra playing softball, in any form, again because of the nature of her injury. Allen and head coach Chuck Simmons reassured them that they wouldn’t let anything happen to Sierra.

As she hit each toss, the family grew more jubilant. Her sister called it an unforgettable moment. Her mother cried watching Sierra hit softballs as if nothing happened.

“She was not only just tapping it, but they were line drives. She was making contact with the ball; her swing was amazing,” Aspen said of her sister. “Nobody really understands what she’s been through. They heard she woke up, but they’re not with her every step of the way. They didn’t know where she was. Where she is now is nothing short of a miracle.”

When Sierra stepped out of the batting cage, she immediately told everyone she wanted to rejoin the team. Simmons smiled seeing her so ecstatic. She couldn’t return right away, as the Longmoores had to make sure they knew what Sierra was getting herself into. Simmons didn’t want to push her in any way so she could come back when she and her family were ready.

She joined the team for practice a few days later. Aspen was nervous to see how her teammates would react, as most of the team hadn’t played with Sierra before the crash. And the only other people who knew Sierra was coming were the coaches and Simmons’ daughter Makenna, a sophomore on the team. But the girls didn’t take long to warm to Sierra’s spunky personality.

Her father worked with Sierra on the side at practice until she was physically ready to join the team’s drills. Per Vermont Principals Association rules, she had to complete 10 practices before she could enter a game.

Since Sierra’s skill level isn’t the same as it was before the crash, she’s not starting as she otherwise would have — and she regularly lets Simmons know. Oxbow’s 9-1 start, with many blowout wins, has helped Simmons find Sierra opportunities.

“She wants to be in the game, and we get it,” Simmons said. “There’s days where she’s like, ‘Hey, am I gonna get into the game?’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yes Sierra, you just gotta be patient with me.’ We work it into the game.”

Sierra’s first few games were meaningful. Her first action came during Oxbow’s home game against Lake Region on May 4, when she played an inning in the outfield. Her teammates, her family and the crowd cheered her on. It was another moment of relief for Sierra: She was finally back doing something she enjoyed.

During Oxbow’s next game on May 8, also at home, against Randolph, Sierra got her first at-bat.

The crowd cheered. Amy and Steven recorded video and hoped for the best. Nine months earlier, their daughter couldn’t speak or walk. No matter the outcome of the at-bat, Sierra just standing in the batter’s box was already an improbable triumph.

After watching strike one, she hit the ball past the first baseman into right field. Sierra took off down the line. The right fielder threw to first base, but Sierra beat the throw.

Amy started crying. Simmons got choked up in the third-base coach’s box. The fans — some of which were just there to support Sierra — cheered and supported her parents.

“I was a mess,” Amy said. “I was praying, too. I was like, ‘Please let her hit the ball. I know she can do it.’ And she did.”

Sierra advanced to second and third on singles, then scored on a triple. When she crossed home plate, Aspen was in the on-deck circle. The twins shared a big hug.

As Sierra has gone through her rehabilitation, the Oxbow community has also played a supportive role. The “Miracle for Sierra — God’s Heros Unite” Facebook group her mother set up to share updates after the crash now has more than 3,500 members. The page is filled with positive updates about Sierra and motivational images and quotes. On Wednesday, Amy held a reception to thank the first responders that helped save Sierra’s life when the crash occurred.

Sierra’s long journey back to the field is easy inspiration for her teammates and friends. But this isn’t a personality change that she now makes people smile — that’s who she always was, even before the crash.

“She is the most generous person you will ever meet, and she has such a kind soul,” Aspen said. “She’s the best person to be around. She’s always trying to please everybody and do everything for everyone, and she really means well.

“And she is strong, she’s very strong. She’s something special. She’s just resilient, beyond measure.”

Seth Tow can be contacted at stow@vnews.com.




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