I am not a journalist. As a matter of fact, English is not my native language, but I want to try to tell you a story.
I got involved with my friend Jessi Combs’ attempt to break the four-wheel land speed record in 2015.
Jessi offered me a chance to come support her dream to become the Fastest Woman on Earth with a supersonic vehicle called the North America Eagle (NAE). She would race across the Alvord dry lake bed in Oregon.
Jessi had deadly allergies to several foods, so I was the one that cooked for her and her crew. She trusted me with her life.
Unfortunately for many of us, her life ended on Aug. 27 while attempting to break her own record.
A few hours before the horrific accident that took her life, I prepared her last meal.
That thought is the one that brings tears to my eyes. It is so hard for me to believe that such an amazing woman has died chasing her dream.
The NAE completed over 50 test runs and record-breaking attempts in the past 20 years or so. I have been part of the team three times since 2015. One of my duties was to walk the blistering desert track with a bucket in hand, collecting any rock bigger than a quarter from the ground to protect the aluminum wheels. Ten miles of smooth track was needed to reach the speed and then another long stretch to slow down.
This time, everything looked great. The first run in the morning was perfect and history was about to be made with this second run early in the afternoon. Everyone was super excited, everyone was ready to celebrate. We all took our positions along the track and watched the whole thing happen…
Minutes later, I walked into the debris field, the trail of destroyed dreams left behind as Jessi’s time in this temporary world was coming to an end.
No words can describe the feeling you get inside when a thousand dreams are burned and gone in a matter of seconds. Countless volunteer hours and the work of at least fifty people went into that moment. Two decades were spent to modify what was once a military aircraft into a land speed record breaking machine.
No words can describe the feeling of watching your friend die in front of your eyes when you were expecting nothing but a glorious end to an amazing run.
Driving back to Moab, I had 14 hours to think about all of this. When I made it past the entrance to Gemini Bridges Road, I had that beautiful hugging feeling that only our valley gives us when we come back home. I was welcomed once again by the amazing beauty that surrounds us and this thought came to my mind: we don’t choose to live, and most of us don’t choose to die.
We are only given a few things that are free and that we take for granted. One of them is time. We are born and, after that moment, most of us have all the time it should take to do a lot of things, positive or negative. When our time is gone, all that is left are the memories we leave behind.
Some of us humans try to live a life that pushes time hard to leave an incredible memory of ourselves, a memory so powerful and impressive that every time we are remembered smiles, tears, love, anger or compassion instantly become part of that moment.
Like stepping on a beach where there are a thousand footprints, every one of us leaves some behind. The ones that are clearer are the ones left in the wet sand. Those are also the ones that will be washed away quickest by the sea.
We all have dreams and we all are given the choice to chase them. Jessi’s was to become the Fastest Woman Alive and mine was to stand next to her.
I don’t know what my next dream will be, as I still have to deal with the smoke left behind by this last one. But no matter what, I will chase it tirelessly within the time that has been given to me, because life is beautiful.
Vic Bruno has lived in Moab for the past 12 years, running a traditional bed-and-breakfast his wife, Anna and son, Andre. “Because life is beautiful” is the motto of his life.