Child survivor reflects on life since crash - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Child survivor reflects on life since crash

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) - While each survivor and family touched by the crash of United Flight 232 has their own unique story to tell, one family is forever tied to Sioux City... by an image.

The image of a young boy in the arms of a Air National Guardsman... that became a symbol of Siouxland's response to the plane crash.

Spencer Bailey and his father Brownell share with us their thoughts on what it means to be here... 20 years later.

"Losing my mom wasn't easy and death isn't an easy thing," Spencer Bailey said. Spencer Bailey was just three years old when he boarded a plane bound for Chicago with his mother Francie and 6-year-old brother Brandon. Their mother, who tried to shield them in the plane would not survive. The two boys were critically hurt and hospitalized in Sioux City for weeks. Now 20 years later, "coming back to Sioux City really opens my eyes about how far I've grown as a person and how far we've come as a family." "They lost their mother and I was of the conviction that they would not lose their father," said Brownell Bailey.

Getting to this day... has been quite a journey. Viewing each milestone as a chance for new beginnings as they move forward. "Every ten years I try to take it as a graduation for me," Brownell said. "Just say okay, that was ten years, made good progress. Now put together a plan for the next ten years."

The Baileys will forever be connected with Sioux City. This picture taken of Spencer being carried by then Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Nielsen of the 185th Fighter Wing became the centerpiece for the Spirit of Siouxland Memorial on Sioux City's riverfront. Until now... Spencer had only seen it once before in person. "When I was 13 I saw a statue but I didn't see myself. And today, I can see that statue and it doesn't really feel like me necessarily, Spencer said.

A more important thing he takes away from this whole experience... a sense of determination and purpose. "Children who survive things find something in life and thrive at it," Spencer said.

Spencer's a budding journalist who

plans to write a magazine article about this trip with his father. And about how their family has coped with tragedy. "Finding my passion took a long time, took a lifetime up until now and that's why I'm going to graduate school because i'm really excited about it," Spencer said. "It's really rooted in 232 I think."

A bright future for a young man... who's image as a child is a sign of all that is possible.

This weekend... Spencer and Brownell also toured the site at Sioux Gateway airport... and stopped by the pediatric unit at Saint Luke's Regional Medical Center... where the boys spent several weeks recovering.

For the care his sons received... and the kindness this community has shown... Brownell says he's "eternally grateful."

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