It's a long way from Alabama to Webster City - nearly 1,000 miles. But it's a journey Sharon Duckett felt compelled to make for her daughter, Colby Duckett Bostick.
Bostick, a 27-year-old who was pregnant with twins, was killed in a multiple-vehicle accident on Dec. 20, 2012, a few miles east of here.
To grieve the loss of her only child, Duckett said she needed to meet the people who cared for that child in the aftermath of the accident. She needed to see the trauma room where her daughter was treated. It was important for her to talk to the people who rocked her grandson, and to personally thank those who comforted her son-in-law, Cody Bostick.
Sharon Duckett holds a photograph of her daughter Colby Duckett Bostick. Colby was killed in a multiple-vehicle accident on Interstate 35 in Hamilton County. Duckett visited the Van Diest Medical Center recently to meet and thank the people who cared for her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.
Jacky the dog was lost for nearly two weeks following the tragic accident that claimed the life of her owner, Colby Bostick. The dog was located on Jan. 4 in Story County and was returned to her family in Texas.
Weather and road conditions were blamed for the massive accident on Dec. 20 that killed two people and injured several more.
Duckett travelled to Iowa recently with Kasie Simpson, Colby Bostick's lifelong friend. The two women spent an entire day with the staff at Van Diest Medical Center, area law enforcement and first responders who touched the lives of the Bostick family on that cold December day.
Southern girl at heart
Sharon and Buddy Duckett were told they couldn't have any children, so when Colby was born the couple knew they had been blessed.
"We'd been married for quite a long time when she came along," said Duckett. "She was our only child and that made her especially more spoiled."
She was a real southern girl at heart, Duckett said. The spunky blue-eyed blonde played softball and was a cheerleader in high school, but she was also an avid outdoors woman.
"Even though she was a girly-girly, she was also a daddy's girl," Duckett said. Her daughter loved hunting with her father and the family had a hunting cabin they visited on weekends where friends gathered, rode four-wheelers and enjoyed the outdoors.
The Ducketts also took trips together. It was on a cruise to Alaska that Colby, then 16, met the love of her life, Cody Bostick. The young Texan was on the cruise with his parents.
"There weren't many kids on that cruise, so Colby and Cody hung out together," Duckett said.
After the cruise, the two wrote letters and kept in touch for a while, but then moved on with their lives. But seven years later they reconnected, and it was just like they hadn't been apart, she said.
"They got engaged a couple months later and were married in Texas," Duckett said.
Soon son Easton came along.
"When they found out they were expecting Easton, Colby said it was time to come home to Alabama to be with Momma," Duckett recalled.
Eventually, Cody was offered a wind farm job near Clear Lake. The company called on a Thursday; he was to be on-site by Monday. After a flurry of emails, paperwork and preparations, Colby Bostick put her husband on a plane bound for Iowa. She followed soon after, driving 15 hours from Alabama with her mother and young Easton.
Not long afterwards, Bostick discovered she was pregnant, this time with twins. Feeling the pull of family, her husband arranged for a transfer to Texas to be close to his parents.
"They weren't just going home for Christmas, they were moving back home," Duckett said.
With their vehicle packed, the Bosticks, Easton and dog Jacky, headed south on Dec. 20, 2012. They made it to mile marker 150 on Interstate 35.
The weather, causing poor visibility and dangerous road conditions, were blamed for the accident that involved at least 30 vehicles. Tractor trailers jack-knifed and slid. Cars were unable to stop. The Bostick's vehicle was hit several times. Somehow, they got out.
They were taken to Van Diest Medical Center in Webster City, along with other travelers hurt in the chain-reaction crash, and that is where Colby Duckett Bostick died.
An outpouring of support
Duckett said her son-in-law told her of the tremendous outpouring of care and support from the hospital staff, first responders, law enforcement and the community.
"It made us feel better that someone was there for him," she said.
"You know, when you're a mom and you can't be there to do, you hope someone's there. You hope there's someone there with compassion. And there was."
Duckett is grateful for Margaret Dingman, a nurse manager, who held Colby's hand during efforts to save her life, and she is thankful for Holly Chambers, a case manager, who comforted and listened to him as he tried to find the words to tell his wife's parents that their daughter was gone.
"I know that was so hard for him," she said. "It wasn't just the physical care that the hospital gave them; it was the emotional love that they were shown."
There were many stories of compassion that surfaced in the wake of the December accident.
"We have an excellent staff here," said Lori Foster, director of public relations for Van Diest Medical Center, soon after the tragedy, "but there were so many others who were touched by the events of that day and helped out in any way they could."
Webster City could tell a story of "goodness with an outpouring of compassion" coming not just from its medical community, but from its businesses and residents as well.
For example, staff went out on their breaks and purchased or donated items to replace things that had been lost, such as a pack-and-play, a car seat, clothing and diapers. The Rev. Mike Kroona, who had been asked to offer bereavement care, returned later with diapers, clothing, winter coats and toys for Easton. There were so many donations, in fact, that hospital staff shipped the excess to the Bostick home in Texas.
They stepped up with human warmth too.
"They took turns holding him, rocking him and feeding him. It really went far beyond caring for his medical needs," Foster said.
"All of that meant so much to us," Duckett said. "I just wasn't going to be happy until I came and thanked some people. That's the least I can do."
According to Duckett, Cody and Easton Bostick are doing well.
So is Jacky. Her story is a small bright spot in the tragedy. The dog, who was traveling with the Bosticks, was at first thought to be another casualty. She went missing in the accident. Through the media, through Facebook and Twitter, she was eventually found in Story County, 40 miles from crash site. Volunteers helped get her back to Texas.
"When we heard she was safe, it gave us a little something to hold on to," Duckett said. "When something horrible happens, a little bit of good can just be huge."
Duckett will always be thankful for the people who cared for her daughter.
"I guess I looked at this trip like I was finally coming here to take Colby home," she said. "Me and her started out together, and I felt like I had to be where she was."