It's been almost a year since 14 people died in a Montana plane crash — including the Pullen family from Galt.
While surviving family members and friends are still reeling from the crash, 18 of them are dedicating a Southern California half-marathon on Super Bowl Sunday to their loved ones who perished last year.
Pam Feldkamp, her two grown children, Maggie Cotton and Buddy Feldkamp, and some cousins and friends will participate in the Surf City Marathon on Sunday morning in Huntington Beach.
Pam Feldkamp lost two daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren in the March 22 crash in Butte, Mont. One of her daughters, Vanessa Pullen, 37, lived in Galt with her husband, Mike, 39, and their two children, Sydney, 9, and Christopher, 7.
Another daughter of Feldkamp's, Amy Jacobson, of St. Helena, died along with her husband and three children.
They were headed to a Montana ski resort on a private plane that Pullen's father had leased. The pilot was also a family friend.
Almost a year after the tragedy, Feldkamp said she has her ups and downs.
"I cry every day at some point," she said tearfully on Wednesday. "You try to focus on the (loved ones) you have. You try to carry on. You have these waves. You think we're going to make it, that things are getting better, but then a wave hits and you start crying."
The wave of grief can hit from something as simple as seeing some poppies. That happened Tuesday, when Feldkamp saw the flowers while taking a walk near her home in Redlands, San Bernardino County. They reminded her of a family trip a few years ago to Santa Barbara, where the family saw some poppies. Then her granddaughter, Sydney, would talk about poppies whenever she saw them.
"I still have trouble going into the girls' bedrooms," Feldkamp said. "We have boxes of their things, we have photo albums, pictures from their houses. Amy was a real good scrapbooker. It's just hard for me to sit with those things right now."
Michael Pullen was a dentist in Valley Springs, and his wife, Vanessa, was a pediatrician in Elk Grove. Their children attended Lodi Seventh-day Adventist School.
The idea to have family and friends run together came from Cotton, who saw her sisters Vanessa and Amy for the last time at the 2009 Surf City Marathon. This will be Cotton's fourth run at the Huntington Beach event.
"I'm going to finish it, but I'm walking," Feldkamp said.
Most of the 18 in the group are running the half-marathon, she said, but a couple are running the 5-kilometer race. She hopes to make the family participation an annual event with even more people running.
Sunday promises to be yet another emotional time for the family.
Surf City Marathon at a glanceWhen: Sunday. Marathon at 6:30 a.m., 5-kilometer at 6:50, half-marathon at 7:45, kids' fun run at 8:35.
Where: Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach.
Can you still sign up? Nope, it's sold out with 20,000 runners participating.
Prohibited: Skateboards, baby joggers, bikes, dogs, skates.
Source: Surf City Marathon
"Every time we're together, it's emotional," Feldkamp said. "We are in different stages (of grief). We try to find something of joy every day in our lives."
More emotion is coming in March, when the family flies to Butte, Mont., on the first anniversary of the tragic crash. They were present for a special dedication last August at the crash site, which now has pictures and information on the victims.
Today, Feldkamp focuses on her husband, Bud, her two remaining children and four grandsons (a fifth is on the way).
"We're in grief all the time, but when you see your grandchildren, you have to be joyful for them," she said. "God has been a whole part of our experience."