I’ve been praying to find closure in hearing from the pilots. I had hoped to know that they were okay and that maybe my letter might have helped them find peace in some way. I received a second response from someone in charge first:

Ms Katzenbach,

My name is XXX XXX and I am the Battalion Commander for 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion.  XXX and XXX are pilots under my command here in garrison. I was commanding in another location of Afghanistan at the time of the accident, but the events have affected us all very deeply. I am truly sorry for your loss and appreciate the note reaching out to my pilots.  I will ensure the crew sees the note and provide them your contact information.  Your strength and compassion is compelling and will greatly assist with the healing process.  If I can be of any assistance to you my contact information is below.

Very Respectfully,

But, later today, I finally heard from one of the two pilots:

Dear Ms. Heidi Katzenbach,

I recently received your email regarding your Son, Jacob, and the pilots involved in the helicopter accident.  My name is XXX XXX.  I am unfortunate to say I was one of the helicopter pilots the evening this tragedy occurred.  I cannot express to you enough my sincere condolences, from the bottom of my heart, but foremost I want to tell you I am so sorry.  I am sorry for so many reasons.  For someone to leave us at such an early part of their life, I can’t begin to imagine the pain and suffering that you have been through.  I know this has affected many others as well, Jacob’s family, friends, his Infantry unit, the flight crew, and our Aviation unit.  

 When I first read your email the other day it actually brought tears to my eyes just knowing that you have expressed concern for our health.  I want you to know I am ok, but have some injuries that will be with me forever.  I can actually say that my injuries will allow me to never forget that night.  

 I can’t say that I knew Jacob personally but often think of him and wish I did.  He has not been forgotten.  Occassionally, XXX and I will have lunch and converse about the accident, about Jacob, and all the “what if’s” that quite possibly may have changed the outcome.  It is only natural for one to feel responsible for this.  That is part of being human and part of who I am.  Thank you for your comforting words and prayers, which have brought me some peace.  That means so much to not only me, but my wife, my children, and my family. 

Very Respectfully, XXX XXX

My heart breaks to think how many people this accident has affected. At times I cannot bear thinking of the various struggles, regrets, sadness and responsibility so many feel, and no matter what I do or say, I cannot take away that burden. I don’t know if this will ever end, but I will continue hoping and praying it will get better with time. I hope there is such a thing as closure, but it seems there is always someone with an open wound somewhere.