Fundraiser for Bryan Baker
EvaLyn Baker had found her true calling in life when she became a mother at 16.
I knew about her story, but when event organizer Cathi Edinger asked me to write about the charity event that would raise money for Eva’s son, Bryan, I wasn’t sure if I could
For me to give readers an accurate reflection of the people in our community, it requires that I walk in someone else’s shoes.
And that was the problem.
I did not want to step into the Baker family’s shoes.
For Eva’s mother, Tereasa, and her father, Jim, who are divorced, and Eva’s three siblings, it still seemed too soon. Too fresh. They were still reeling from the December accident in which Jim and Tereasa’s 19-month-old grandson survived and their 18-year-old daughter did not.
I wondered what this story wanted from me – an answer, I supposed – that I did not have.
So, at first, I determined to simply report the facts: friends of the Bakers organized a benefit that raised $8,000, drew five local bands, and more than 300 people to the Buffalo Valley on Saturday, Jan. 21.
But that seemed unfair, especially for a page that is about people and their stories.
It’s hard to sum up someone’s life in one column.
What’s worse, is to try to comprehend why Eva, who had so much to live, for, had to die.
I guess that’s when I put their shoes on.
It’s the images that won’t go away. Eva’s last moments rolled around in my head like one of those metal balls in a pinball machine. I wondered how one mistake could collide so absolutely with circumstance. It wasn’t like her to drive fast and the night she crashed, she was on her way to her mother’s house to get a safer car to drive to Aspen to see her father.
When investigators could not explain why Eva had broken her right arm, her family knew why: she had tried to reach for her son. That was the image – Eva and Bryan reaching for each other in that last moment that refused to leave my mind.
I thought it would go away.
The night after the event, I got out of bed four times thinking about them.
On my third trip to my desk that night, I remembered a note Gayle Bean had stuffed into my camera bag the night before.
It was a note Tereasa had written. I opened my bag, unfolded the note, and studied it.
It was a mother’s handwriting: the words were open and generous and each letter slanted towards the right. It mirrored Tereasa, friendly and easy to talk to, like a best girlfriend.
Except this time, I do not think she knew what to say.
So she said what Eva needed to hear: she professed her love to her daughter and sealed it with the promise to take good care of her son.
At the event, for most of the night, I stood in the shadows, where I thought my answer lurked.
But it wasn’t there.
So I watched everyone.
I wondered if Eva’s teachers and friends at Yampah High School, who were such a positive part of her life, might have my answer.
I don’t think they did.
A.J. Rothberg came close when, before taking the stage with his band, thanked everyone for coming.
“Sometimes,” he said. “Life takes something from us it shouldn’t.” A.J. is the kind of guy who is able to juggle three or four jobs at the same time and then will offer to take on one more thing for a friend.
I imagine when people told his wife, Cathi how hard it would be to plan a major event in 30 days, she listened politely and then did it anyway – in a spectacular way.
Yesterday, when my Wednesday deadline rolled around, I saw myself in the newsroom trying to coax an ounce of wisdom out of an unspeakable tragedy.
It refused my plea.
I tried anyhow, because I know that if I sit in front of the computer long enough, that answer will come.
It may be seconds before our 10 p.m. deadline, just as the newsroom clock threatens to reach across the room and grab me by the throat, but eventually that answer comes.
This time, I wondered if it would.
I had hoped that by walking in their shoes, I could make a difference with someone, somewhere.
I’m not sure I will.
All I wanted was to walk out of the newsroom last night with an answer for that family, or at least something – comforting, like the way a full moon will swallow some of the darkness for you when you need it most.
All I wanted was an answer.
But it never came.
And I guess, sometimes, that’s the answer.
Contributions can be made to one of two memorial funds set up at Alpine Bank of Glenwood Springs, either the EvaLyn Baker Memorial fund for Bryan Baker or the EvaLyn Baker memorial expense account.
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UPDATE 5:27 p.m. — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions Saturday evening after a safety closure due to a flash flood warning. There were no reported mud/debris slides.