First Light: Bill Rancic
Lives changed when Daniel Albrecht and Kerry Egan both working for Petrol and when a trip to Alaska for work would change the lives of so many in both tragic and miraculous ways. When a young father decides to revisit the place where a tragic plane crash occurred in the wilderness a decade ago how does he explain it to his son. The car ride would forever change young Jackson’s life as his parents explain his birth, the death of so many and the miracle that brought him life. The setting is deep in the woods of the Yukon and as we meet Daniel and Kerry about to venture on this dangerous mission or trip we also meet many other heroes and heroines. Planning their original wedding when and if they get back home to Chicago never imagining the end result, Daniel is forced to speed up a special job and endanger his work crew because his boss, Bob, can’t understand the meaning of safety and wait. Pleading with him to allow him more time for the weather to cooperate and not endanger the men that would go below the surface of icy waters to correct a leak, he has no choice but to follow his lead and direction. Bob, is self-absorbed, only concerned for himself and never hears or listens to the other side of a conversation. When the job is finally done they realize that many flights are cancelled yet their flight to Chicago takes off but what happens and the graphic and vividly described way author Bill Ranci portrays the scene the reader feels as if he or she is on the plane with the passengers experiencing the fall, the crash and fire in both engines that send the plane slamming directly into the mountainside in the middle of a huge and powerful snowstorm. When the plane finally settles and the story continues they realize the plane came apart, many did not make it while others including Kerry were badly injured. Fatalities were high and the few that survived would have to either die in the cold or ban together to get help and survive.
As the trip progresses Jackson does not really seem interested in going to Alaska, Disneyworld would be his first choice but when all of the information is revealed he will have to decide on learning a harsh reality about himself and his past learning to deal with something most children his age do not.
It’s a warm and heartfelt love story between Daniel and Kerry the two people who survive the crash but one who will make it out after all the wind, snow, drifts, ice and cold tapers off. The cold in Alaska is way below zero and chance of those on the plane getting frostbite or hypothermia is great when the food and water supply are scarce and the heat in the plane does not exist. How can people survive as Kerry fights her own battle with a serious concussion that would affect her even years later and the fight to keep her unborn child safe and alive as Daniel proves to be more than just the head of a team in crisis management but with his survival skills and persistence he was determined to save those that survived even though it meant risking his own life. The CEO, Bob Packer had sent the crisis management team to Barrow before the bodies had been discovered and the team’s job because of this accident and explosion on one of Petrol’s oil platforms off the Alaska coast, meant that Daniel and his crew would have to shut down the leak, aid the families of the dead workers, settle their affairs, and offer any help the company could to the families. Working with the local authorities to clean up the mess and hopefully minimized the impact on the environment. But, Bob Packer, his boss did not want to hear that it was dangerous sending his men down there. Daniel tried his best to convince him but Bob Packer was self-centered, unfeeling and did not bend a inch. As the senior VP of the crisis management department he never really delineated the differences between personal and business lives. His life was work and although good at his job he did not care about anything but getting the job done at all costs. Learning more about him does not endear readers to this man as we forge ahead to the crash and we learn what some did to save others and we meet Phil the head of human resources who never socialized, seemed withdrawn and lived in the past remembering his wife, Emily who passed away. While the ability to send signals from the black box or cell service was not an option and Kerry was not waking up for a while, one woman, a former nurse, Beverly takes charge helping Kerry and as many others as she can. Daniel feels it’s up to him to save and find help no matter what happens, no matter the danger and Bob being headstrong and needing to take charge decides to venture out into the arctic air and cold with him. The sky is filled with clouds, mist and snow and unless they find a way to light a fire and signal the search and rescue teams they will all die.
As we get to know Daniel and realize that he is doing this to save Kerry and the others we meet Phil Velez, seriously hurt in the crash yet forced to face some harsh realities about himself, take another grip on his life and hopefully take care of Kerry, while Daniel searches for help in the woods to find a town or anyone to help them. No houses, no phones, no roads, nothing but a world of ice and snow.
With few on the plane willing to help we meet a young boy named Zach who is astute, smart and only wants to help and he does. Needing something to trek in the snow Zach brilliantly collects shoelaces for Daniel to use to create snowshoes. Added in he helps build a fire to warm the survivors and when Daniel leaves and Bill steps up to the plate what he does lets readers know that he just might be taking a turn in a different direction and was no longer feeling sorry for himself.
As Bill promises to take care of Kerry and Beverly takes on the job of nurse and doctor, what they both realize about each other is remarkable as Bill finally stops taking on the self- pity attitude and Beverly works feverishly to save Kerry. With frozen IV bags to be thawed out, no water supply but somehow using snow, two flight attendants take on the responsibility of finding some water source and supplies to help the others. But, in every situation there are those that are selfish, lazy and unfeeling as Bill and Zach created a fire and when one man pushes Zach aside what Bill does will make readers want to take some really cold snow or ice balls and throw them at the man who pushed him aside.
Daniel is strong but not invincible and Bob is stubborn and their actions might cost both of them their lives as they create a fire hoping to attract the rescue planes, hoping to survive as Daniel realizes his hands are frostbitten, Bob is having trouble breathing and walking and their limbs might be frozen. Daniel’s choices are made all the more difficult by the presence of his boss, a stubborn man more interested in results than taking care of people. Only one man will come out of their trek alive, but it still may not be in time to save Kerry and the others back at the crash site, slowly dying from their injuries.
For anyone that has ever experienced severe turbulence during a flight or has ever been on a flight that has made an emergency landing, which I know from first hand experience, the thoughts going through Daniel’s mind and Kerry’s are so perfectly described as each one ponders their fate but will they both survive.
The author flashes back and forth to the present as Jackson begins to get more interested in the story and is about to find out the truth behind his birth, just who Daniel really was and the reasons why it was hidden from him for so long. But, how will he react and what questions will he want answered? A riveting and compelling story that takes readers into the heart of this mountain filled with snow, ice and the chilling winds as Daniel and Bob trek through miles and miles of whiteout snow to get help but will they survive? As both men have their own way of dealing with the elements and when Bob fails to keep the fire lit, Daniel winds up with serious frostbite but when the fire is reignited will the rescue team get there in time to save anyone before it’s too late. In the present when the entire trip is about to end and they are at the same place where the crash occurred when Jackson learns will affect him forever and will change his life in regarding someone close to him. When he learns what happened to the rest of the passengers and realizes his parents sacrificed a lot to save others what will his reaction be when he learns the truth about his father and his identity? An ending you won’t see coming and a family that will either be broken apart of close than ever before. Author Bill Rancic hits high marks and breaks the bar for delivering a heartfelt, thought provoking novel and kept this reviewer glued to the printed page from start to finish. Once you pick it up you won’t put it down until you read the dramatic and surprise ending. What happens when the sky gets darker, the clouds are dark, the snow begins to fall and the visibility is less than an inch if that much you pray hard that the sun will shine and that a miracle will occur when it does at FIRST LIGHT!
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine