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ST. GEORGE — As Malcolm Bennett stood in the room of his 12-year-old daughter Alyssa, his eyes were drawn to a stack of papers.
He rummaged through the pile and quickly noticed that it was filled with drawings and poems she had written. One poem caught his attention, “I am going for a long run. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
Tears streamed down his face, and he wanted nothing more than to hug his little girl.
On the evening of June 13, 2014, Bennett packed his bags to make the trip to Bryce Canyon, where he would run his first 50-mile race. He stood in the check-in line at Ruby’s Inn, collected his number, and left his drop bags to be placed for him to pick up during the race.
He then headed to his truck, where he planned to sleep for the night.
What happened next would send his world tumbling down.
He received a phone call that his daughter, Alyssa, had been killed in an car accident involving a drunk driver. He immediately drove back to his hometown of Page, Arizona, where what he was told was confirmed. Alyssa was gone.
Bennett was not only filled with grief for the loss of his only daughter, but was now faced with many what-ifs. "It was like she knew her time was up," he said. "I just wish I knew, too, so I could try and find a way to keep her home with me."
Having been divorced from Alyssa’s mother, Bennett shared custody, and had spent the last 15 days with his daughter.
I remember waking up in middle of the night. I was sleeping by the window, so I peeked out and saw her sitting near the door reading a book in the dark. Oh, that girl loved to read. I saw her and I wanted to ask her what was wrong, but I didn't. The next evening after I got off work and was ready to leave for Bryce Canyon, I wanted to ask her what was wrong; instead I just hugged her as we often did. I did, however, tell her I loved her so much. Next, she was gone just like that.
During the two weeks, the father and daughter did many things, including running a race together as part of the “Just Move It Navajo Nation” events. While there, Alyssa turned to her dad and said, “One of these days you are going to run a 100-miler.”
Bennett looked forward to meeting that goal, and his 50-mile race at Bryce would be one step closer to realizing that goal.
A few days before the race, however, Bennett noticed that his daughter seemed different.
“The night before I left for Bryce, Alyssa and her step-sister wanted to sleep on the porch, so I let them,” he recalled. “I remember waking up in middle of the night. I was sleeping by the window, so I peeked out and saw her sitting near the door reading a book in the dark. Oh, that girl loved to read. I saw her and I wanted to ask her what was wrong, but I didn't. The next evening after I got off work and was ready to leave for Bryce Canyon, I wanted to ask her what was wrong; instead I just hugged her as we often did. I did, however, tell her I loved her so much. Next, she was gone just like that.”
The past eight months have been difficult for Bennett, but he says he has found comfort as he runs on the trails near his home — each mile logged in memory of his daughter — with the goal of running the 100-mile race she foretold he would run.
When Matt Gunn, director of the Bryce Canyon race, heard of the tragic events that transpired the night before the race, he offered to help.
At each of his 2015 Grand Circle Trail events, Gunn will provide purple bracelets with Alyssa’s name on them for each runner so they, too, can run in her honor.
The first event that will be held in Alyssa’s honor will take place on Feb. 21 at Antelope Canyon, in her hometown of Page. This will also serve as Bennett’s 100-mile race for his daughter.
“I want to run this for her, knowing that she wanted me to do this,” he said. And as he looks forward to the long run ahead, the words of this daughter are fresh in his mind. “I am going for a long run. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
An account* has also been set up, in an effort to offset funeral and legal fees associated with Alyssa's death, at youcaring.com.
*KSL.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does KSL.com assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.About the Author: Arianne Brown
Arianne is a mother to six young children. Her down time is spent running the mountain trails of the Wasatch Mountains and beyond. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter @arimom6 or search her Facebook page, "A Mother's Write."