Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bill Johnson is home for Christmas

My cousin, Bill Johnson, is going to be home for Christmas. It’s a good day. I’ve gotten word that he’s now back in Minnesota. I keep things on my blog away from the personal, mostly, but I'm just so happy about this I wanted to post it. It's been a long few weeks for the family. Here’s the news story from this afternoon:

MINNEAPOLIS - At one point, Bill Johnson, Sr. thought he would never see his family again. He called Tuesday's reunion a Christmas miracle.

Little Gabi Schaeffer couldn't wait to welcome home grandpa. Either could her sister, nor the entire extended Johnson family, gathered in a waiting room at Hennepin County Medical Center for what 3 1/2 weeks ago seemed like an impossibility.

It was the day after Thanksgiving when Bill Johnson, Sr. was in the cockpit of a cargo plane that crashed on takeoff, killing three of his friends and crew members. Now the call had finally come that the patriarch of the family was back in Minnesota on his way to the hospital.

Excitement built with every second on the clock for a moment that will be retold at Johnson family Christmases for years to come.

Johnson credits his wife, and a colleague who pulled him from the burning wreckage, for his survival.

“He was literally pulled out of the wreckage by one of the other guys on the plane,” explained his son, Bill Jr. of Minnetonka last week. “He’s pretty darn tough to have survived an accident like this. He is a very strong person."

He doesn't know what went wrong that November Day. Johnson suffered fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and potentially devastating damage to his lungs in the fiery crash. At first, his family did not know if he had survived.

But now, Johnson can handle the weight of grandchildren on his lap and can even walk with a little help from his kids.

"I thought I lost my family," Johnson said. "They thought they lost me. God played a part in giving me another chance."

It's unclear how long Johnson will be in the hospital, but what's important is that he's here and there's a very special Christmas to celebrate.

"The Christmas miracle was when I made it home today," Johnson said. "It's most special for our family because they thought they lost their dad and grandpa. They didn't know."

This is actually the second plane crash Bill Johnson, Sr. has walked away from. Years ago, he safely landed a plane with his family onboard when the landing gear wouldn't deploy. The 61-year-old said Tuesday he thinks his piloting career is over.


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