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Jim Kenyon: Newbury, Vt., teen stronger every day as she recovers from crash

  • 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: 9/5/2020 10:20:23 PM
Modified: 9/5/2020 10:20:21 PM

I’m not ordinarily a Facebook person. I prefer not to spend my screen time learning that some of my friends from high school are 9/11 conspiracy theorists and birthers.

But I’ve recently found myself drawn to the social network to follow the story of an Upper Valley family that’s coping with a tragedy that altered their world in a matter of seconds.

Nearly every morning, Amy Longmoore, of Newbury, Vt., posts updates on Facebook about her 17-year-old daughter Sierra, who suffered a life-threatening head injury in a one-car crash earlier this summer.

Longmoore writes about her daughter’s progress along with the challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead. The posts are heartfelt and inspiring. A steady dose of spirituality reflects Longmoore’s deep Catholic faith.

She starts by giving the number of days since the crash. On Aug. 22 — Day 43 — she wrote, “Sierra slept well. Day by day she regains motor control in her left side which has been challenging for her.

“She is strong in both mind and spirit and is fighting hard to recover. Please continue to pray.”

Sierra, a student-athlete at Oxbow High School, was headed to her babysitting job shortly before 8 a.m. July 8. She apparently lost control of her family’s 2006 BMW SUV on a sharp turn on Snake Road — a steep, twisting stretch of asphalt that’s a shortcut to Route 5 from the Longmoores’ home near the Bradford-Newbury line.

The SUV flipped several times and landed against an oak tree. Two neighbors who heard the crash rushed to the scene and found the car turned over in the middle of the road. Sierra, who was wearing a seatbelt, appeared unconscious, still in the driver’s seat. She was airlifted by DHART to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

When I wrote about Sierra — and “#SierraStrong” yard signs that had popped up on lawns from Fairlee to Bradford — in late July, she had not yet awakened.

As Sierra emerged from the coma, it was “certainly not like the movies,” her mother posted, referring to the 10 days or so of waiting for medications to wear off. “She is working really hard to remap her brain.”

On Aug. 10 — Day 33 — Longmoore let Facebook followers know that Sierra was moving to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston to begin physical, speech and occupational therapy.

“We are excited, nervous, anxious, scared and a whole plethora of emotions right now,” Longmoore wrote. “Please keep Sierra and our family in your prayers as we embark on the next chapter of her journey.”

When she arrived at Spaulding, Sierra still wasn’t speaking. But when she was shown family pictures, Longmoore said that she could tell through her daughter’s “eyes and facial expressions” that she recognized everyone.

“She hears us, I’m confident in this,” Longmoore wrote.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sierra’s visitors are kept to a minimum. Amy and her husband, Steven, take turns spending time in Boston. Last week while Steven stayed with Sierra, Amy was back in Newbury with their four other children.

Sierra’s twin sister, Aspen, was recently allowed to visit for a weekend. “She has special privileges,” her mother joked.

On Aug. 24, Sierra uttered her first words. Her dad was in the room. “I love you,” she whispered.

Steven, who graduated from Oxbow High in 1994, is a district manager with Home Depot.

Employees at Home Depot stores from as far away as Juneau, Alaska, are among Longmoore’s 3,400 Facebook followers. In a show of support, they wear rubber bracelets and T-shirts bearing the words “Sierra Strong.”

Closer to home, more than 40 teachers and staff at Oxbow donned their “Sierra Strong” T-shirts for a photo outside the school. “We wanted Sierra to know that we’re thinking of her,” said Lomond Richardson, Oxbow’s school counseling coordinator.

Proceeds from T-shirt sales and other merchandise go to the Longmoores to help with expenses. Steven has family medical coverage through Home Depot, which eases a big worry. But Amy, who is self-employed, has had to put her marketing business on hold.

At Newbury Village Store, a donation jar sits on the counter. “We wanted to do something to help lift the family’s burden,” said Melissa Battersby, one of the store’s owners.

Battersby keeps up with how Sierra is doing through Amy Longmoore’s Facebook posts. “We all do,” Battersby said. “She has an amazing following.”

Richardson, who has served as a point person between the Longmoores and the community, told me that Amy’s Facebook posts have made a difference. When people don’t know what’s happening following a tragedy, it can lead to small-town gossip. But Amy’s posts keep people in the loop, she said.

“When there’s progress, we read about it and when (Sierra) has a bad day, we read about it,” Richardson said. “That makes it real for people.

“Amy is reminding us that not every day is perfect for anyone. She’s probably helping more people than she’ll ever know.”

Longmoore told me that she writes whatever she’s feeling at the moment and has no qualms about sharing her family’s story. “Sierra is a beacon of hope for others,” she said. “I think the world needs a little more faith.

“We’re so blessed that Sierra has her memory and she’s communicating. There’s no doubt in my mind that in a couple of weeks, she’ll be able to walk, too.”

In Thursday’s post, Longmoore made a lighthearted remark about Sierra enjoying a snack of orange juice and Cheetos during a therapy session.

“Every day is one more step closer to her coming home,” her mother said.

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




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