"We thought we had so much more time," Jami Smith Lane tells CNN
Her 14-year-old daughter was killed in the plane crash that one girl survived
Jami Smith Lane clearly remembers saying goodbye to her 14-year-old daughter, Sierra Wilder, for the last time.
It was a typical interaction between a parent and a teenage child. Sierra had just got into her uncle’s jeep, ready to set off for a vacation in Florida.
“I put her bags in the back, and I said, ‘You get over here.’ And I made her open that door, and I gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek – and she kind of rolled her eyes at me. And I said, ‘I love you,’” Lane recalled.
The fleeting moment has become a precious memory for Lane.
“That’s something you can’t ever, ever take away,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
The small plane carrying Sierra back home from vacation crashed Friday in western Kentucky. Sierra and three others on board the plane were killed. But her 7-year-old cousin, Sailor Gutzler, somehow survived the disaster.
‘We thought we had so much more time’
Sailor’s extraordinary tale of survival and the tragic deaths of four of her family members – her mother, father, sister and cousin – have captured worldwide attention.
At the same time, the family and the community in the small town of Nashville, Illinois, are still trying to come to terms with the loss of four beloved members.
“This town and this world is just going to be so different without them,” said Lane. “They were all such beautiful, beautiful people – inside and out.”
She described her daughter as “a girly girl” who loved music, dancing, clothes, makeup and her friends and family.
“Sierra was so kind to everybody, and she looked at the positive in everything,” she told CNN.
Lane said the loss has taught her a powerful lesson that she hoped other people would take away from the disaster.
“You don’t know if somebody’s going to walk out that door and you’re never going to see them again,” she said. “That’s what all her friends are saying at school – they thought they had so much time with her, just like we did. We thought we had so much more time.”
Sierra had four brothers and also loved taking care of her younger cousins. Family members are coping as best they can.
“We’re helping each other out and leaning on each other,” Lane said. “We have a lot of kids in the family and we were very close, so it’s very difficult. The children are doing as well as I think can be expected.”
‘I can think of her kicking a soccer ball’
The other family members who died in the plane crash were Sierra’s uncle and aunt, Marty and Kimberly Gutzler, and Piper, their 9-year-old daughter.
Piper loved sports, particularly soccer, basketball and softball, according to an obituary published Monday.
“I can think of her kicking a soccer ball or running around – that`s what I think about,” Michael Brink, a school superintendent in Nashville, told CNN affiliate KTVI.
Piper also enjoyed “going to the beach and being with family,” the obituary said.
Marty Gutzler, 48, owned a furniture store in Nashville and loved flying, boating and spending time with his family, his obituary said.
Chris Collins – the director of the airport in Mount Vernon, Illinois, where Gutzler housed his Piper PA-34 – said they’d known each other for more than 20 years.
“He was on a first-name basis with everyone. That’s how Marty was. He knew everyone. And everyone knew him,” Collins told CNN affiliate KFVS.
He said what he remembered about Gutzler, a pilot of more than 30 years, was “his friendliness, his smile – he never met a stranger.”
‘A devastation for our community’
Kimberly Gutzler, 46, “loved her animals, traveling, painting and spending time with her family,” according to her obituary.
She and her husband were pillars of the community, according to Travis Volz, a family friend.
“They were just a mainstay for every event, everything, everything that happened, every sport, every activity they were always involved in it,” Volz told KTVI.
Marty Gutzler’s pastor, Matthew Wietfeldt, at the Trinity Lutheran Church, said the loss of the four family members “is a devastation for our community.”
“We’re hurting,” he told CNN. “We’re so saddened by the loss and are grieving the loss of Marty and Kim and Piper and Sierra.”
Lane said the community was rallying around the family and remembering the dead by repeating the phrase “fly high.”
“Everyone’s opening their arms and sending well wishes,” she said. “And all of them are telling everyone to ‘fly high.’”