Landen Miller, 3-year-old survivor
Wearing an autographed cast and rough-housing in his yard, 3-year-old Landen Miller shows that not much seems to phase him. Not even being hit by a car.A little more than three weeks ago, after a community picnic on June 15, Miller held a yellow balloon in one hand and his mom’s hand in the other. Moments later, after he quickly let go of her grasp, the preschooler ran into oncoming traffic, causing a car to strike him chest-first.”It was so fast, but like slow motion,” said Miller’s mom, Michelle, herself in a foot cast from a July 4 horseback riding mishap. “My girlfriend was on the other side of the street, and he saw her and got excited. I had him, I had his hand, and he just ran.”Michelle said Landen was still holding his yellow balloon from the Teddy Bear Picnic at Sayre Park when she arrived at his side. To Michelle’s horror, and the horror of many other witnesses near the park, a car moving 15 mph sent him flying 20 feet down North Hyland Drive. The stay-at-home mom expected the worst.”The only thing I remember is seeing him fly through the air. I didn’t see him land,” said Michelle, who moved to Glenwood Springs with her family two years ago after her husband, Chip, a network technician for Qwest, was transferred. “Even when I got to him, I thought he was going to die. He was lying on his left side – all his injuries were on the right side. He rolled over onto his back and he kept looking into the sky like he was looking at angels. His eyes were wide open and his clothes weren’t even torn. He was perfect.”
Michelle said Landen suffered a broken arm, skinned his cheek, forehead and right knee and elbow, and suffered a concussion and black eyes from the accident – all minor injuries, she said, considering he was struck head-on by a car. She does not blame the driver of the car, who was not cited for the no-fault accident, and credits off-duty Snowmass fireman Tyler Graf for his quick reaction.”It could have happened anywhere at any time. The car did not see him at all. Landen just ran between two parked cars,” Michelle said. “Tyler Graf just happened to have just parked his car. He whipped open his trunk with all this fireman stuff in it. The first thing Landen said to me was, ‘Hold you,’ so I was reaching for him and I heard this male voice out of nowhere say, ‘Don’t pick him up.'”Heather Howe, Michelle’s friend who was standing across the street when Landen was hit, tried to help as well.”She is my best friend here,” Michelle said. “She was the most heartbroken. She said she just couldn’t get to him.”Michelle said Howe, with her bruised and skinned knees, ended up in the emergency room looking worse than Landen.”I went to run, but my legs just went noodle-y,” said Howe, who met Michelle through Mothers of Preschoolers. “I don’t really remember, I just couldn’t run. I looked right at Michelle, and there was nothing I could do.”
The only change Michelle has seen in Landen is that he is feistier. Michelle and Heather – and other witnesses that day who have called Michelle inquiring whether or not he even survived – haven’t had it so easy.”It took at least two weeks to get a good night’s sleep,” Michelle said. “Heather and I still sit around and cry. If you were there, you thought for sure he was gone.”Kristine Del Rio, one of four witnesses who called 911 to report Landen had been hit, has also had difficulty erasing the image and sounds of the accident from her mind.”I thought it was one of my children. It’s in their nature for children to be impulsive,” said Del Rio, a mother of four from Glenwood Springs who has visited Landen at home. “I thought there was no way he could live. Since then, it’s been like post-traumatic shock syndrome. Just to see him now … he’s a walking miracle.”Hayden, Landen’s 4-year-old brother who was on the sidewalk after the picnic but did not see the accident happen, said he feels closer to his little brother.”He always wants me to stay with him,” he said. “I brought him a toy at the hospital and said ‘Landy, are you OK?’ and he said ‘Yes.’ It was kinda scary.”
Michelle said the distinctive traits of her two boys may have made a difference in the outcome of the accident.”Landen has always been ‘Mr. Rubberband’ Man, ‘Mr. Flexible,'” she said. “If it had been Hayden, if would have probably turned out differently. Landen is just a little spitfire, and Hayden is my worrier.”Today, the Millers are most thankful to friends such as Howe, the witnesses they did not know who called 911, and the family’s church, Trinity Baptist. Before June 15, Michelle was somewhat uncomfortable with the strong religious values many people in Glenwood hold. Her views have since changed.”Landen is a lucky, lucky boy. There were a lot of prayers, and the church brought us meals … so many people filled the hospital. It’s all such a beautiful circle,” Michelle said. “When we first moved here, there was the big cross (on Red Mountain) lit up over our house, and I was always saying this is such a religious town. I wasn’t sure if I liked it here. But you know, if you don’t believe in God after this, you should now.”Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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