- Associated Press - Saturday, September 24, 2016

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) - Forty years ago, Sandy Lasson’s vital signs were nowhere to be found.

The 18-year-old woman was living in the Big Thompson canyon when the 1976 flood rocked the Northern Colorado community.

She was airlifted to safety the day after the water rushed through the canyon. When she landed, Loveland firefighter Jack Sullivan put his arm around the in-shock teen as medical personnel rushed to treat her.

Their embrace filled the front page of the Fort Collins newspaper the next day, on Aug. 2, 1976.

Sandy tracked Sullivan down 40 years later, and they reunited to share their memories of that day and the disaster that took so many lives, reported the Loveland Reporter-Herald (https://bit.ly/2cPDKWa).

“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much,” Lasson said while sitting in Sullivan’s kitchen. “I do know I was in shock … I had my dog Sugar, which was really important to me.”

Jack remembers being told to find someone who needs help and help them when the helicopter landed - which is why Sandy found herself in his arms that day.

“I remember being there when they took her vitals and there weren’t any,” Jack said. “… I guess, you know, the only thing we really remember besides that is the picture - we were there.”

The two were told the emotional picture gained national attention as news outlets across the country picked it up off The Associated Press wire and published it.

Sandy, who still resides in the canyon, said she asked about Jack for years. It wasn’t until about one year ago, though, that she finally had his contact information.

But, she said, her job kept her schedule tight. Finally, though, flood survivor Barb Anderson urged her to visit Jack just after the flood’s 40th anniversary this year.

“That’s when I made it a priority,” Sandy said.

Jack’s wife Pat said they were expecting the call, even before their friend told them Sandy would be calling.

“You know, I told Pat the other day that this meeting and everything came about because she was ready,” Jack said. “You know, when (Sandy) got that number you just had to call - and then this all happened. You didn’t call the first time, and I know you said you had a patient, but you would have found time if you were ready.”

Sandy said Jack was probably right. She called for the first time in August and set up a time with Pat. Both Jack and Sandy agreed their first meeting was surreal.

“It was really nice,” Sandy said.

Jack said he and other emergency responders were not ready for the disaster that hit the canyon on July 31, 1976.

“Oh, we weren’t prepared for that flood,” Jack said. “We had done some training, but nothing of that magnitude. You don’t think about being scared when you’re there - you are just focusing on the disaster and what you can do or where you can go, you know. You don’t think about whether you’re going to get hurt.”

For Sandy, her memories about the flood are vague, but the emotion lives in her to this day - her dreams are often full of water.

“The only time we could see was when it was lightning or a propane tank exploded,” Sandy said. ” … People were either gone or they were OK - there wasn’t much in between,” she added.

Lasson would learn her father’s body was recovered from the flood shortly after her encounter with Jack.

“Jack was some comfort, more than you’ll ever know,” Lasson said.


Information from: Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, https://www.reporterherald.com/

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