Crescent and Kilee Ives are doubly lucky.
The two burn victims are lucky to be alive and fortunate to have a wide circle of support from family and friends.
Ms. Ives and her daughter, Kilee, were on their way home to Worcester August 12 when a tractor-trailer toppled off I-88 and landed in front of them on Route 7 in Richmondville.
The truck burst into flames, and although Ms. Ives and Kilee escaped, they were badly burned. They were airlifted to Westchester Medical Center, where Kilee was treated for three weeks. Ms. Ives was there just shy of a month, receiving skin grafts on her left arm.
That was the outcome of one of the most unusual and horrific accidents in memory.
Now home, mother and daughter are recovering. Kilee went back to ninth grade at Worcester last week; Ms. Ives is getting physical therapy three days per week.
And they've had time to reflect on what they believe is their good fortune.
"They say to live every day like it's your last," said Ms. Ives. "I believe it, because it almost was."
Thankful to be home, she hasn't returned to her job at The Center, a grocery and deli in Worcester, but Ms. Ives credits her work there for the army of supporters who've come to help.
Money, food, flowers, cards and kind words all came from customers, friends and family.
"I can't describe how grateful we are for everyone who came to our aid," Ms. Ives said.
"After this, you realize how wonderful people are."
Kilee agreed, adding that she was eager to get back to school to see not just friends but also people she might not have known but saw every day.
"I've never seen a kid who wanted to go back to school so badly," Ms. Ives said, laughing.
"Being in the hospital, I missed my friends and my great teachers and even people I didn't like too much," Kilee said. "I go up and talk to all of them."
Ms. Ives echoed those words, saying that their experience "has brought our whole family together much closer. It's been wonderful."
"We're 10 times closer," Kilee agreed.
Although there are dozens or even hundreds who have turned out to help, the Ives singled out a few:
•Ryan, their husband and dad, who stayed with them at Westchester and has been a constant supporter since then.
•Ralphie Spina of J&M Automotive Services in Richmondville, who arrived at the accident in minutes. "He called Ryan--he said that was the toughest phone call he ever made--and calmed us down," Ms. Ives said. "He was one of the few people who stopped. Ralphie was our angel that day."
•Jason Stroosnyder of J&S Enterprises, Mr. Ives' employer, who continued to pay Mr. Ives while he was in Westchester. "He made sure there was a paycheck every week," Ms. Ives said. "He was wonderful."
•Dennis Dedek, Ms. Ives' employer at The Center, who called daily to check on the two women, provided eyeglasses for Ms. Ives and has organized ongoing fundraisers. (See related story.)
•Darin Ives, Mr. Ives' brother, who helped with fundraisers and support.
•Alton and Kara Travis, Ms. Ives' brother and sister-in-law, who within days had cell phones for the two women--on different floors at the Westchester hospital--so that they could communicate.
"There are just so many people who have helped out," Mr. Ives said.
Most of all, Ms. Ives and Kilee have each other--and fortunately, had each other the day of the accident.
"We pushed each other to get out of that car," Kilee said.
"I think I'd still be there if it wasn't for her," Ms. Ives said. "She's an amazing girl."
They also motivated each other while in the hospital, prodding and supporting one another to get better.
Although Ms. Ives and Kilee are improving and widespread support hasn't waned, medical bills are a looming issue.
The two helicopter rides to Westchester were $50,000 each, and that's before any hospital treatment.
"If we sat down and thought about it, we'd pull out all our hair," Ms. Ives said.
Generous fundraisers made it possible for the family to pay their daily bills. The astronomical medical bills will get paid, well. . .whenever they can.
"We started getting asked for payment lying there in the hospital," Ms. Ives said.
For now, they're simply putting the bills in an envelope.
"What more can we do?" Ms. Ives asked. "We can't stress about it. We'll do what we can and only hope things will be made right."
Other issues exist, too. Neither Ms. Ives nor Kilee have returned to the accident site, and when they have to go to Cobleskill, "we take back roads," Kilee said.
The family's also looking to move. They live on top of South Hill, reached by a steep, twisting road. The Ives understandably don't like passing under I-88 that passes over South Hill Road.
"It's a safety thing," Ms. Ives said about moving. "That's more important to us now."
It's also important to be survivors of a traumatic, fiery moment in time.
"This made us stop and think," Ms. Ives said. "We reconnected with our family and put everything into perspective about what's important--family and friends."