A Heart, A Soul, A Voice - Filmmaker’s Statement
In the winter of 2015 I was contacted by a plaintiffs’ attorney associate of mine to produce a video to help with the case of three families who had lost their children in a plane crash outside of Silver City New Mexico. He told me the kids were high achievers; top students at their small charter school.
What I was not prepared for as I went to work that first day interviewing the families of Ella Kirk, Michael Mahl and Ella Myers was how very accomplished and completely realized as human beings these three young people had been on the day their small plane crashed attempting to land in bad weather at Whiskey Creek Airport.
Ella Myers had already written two full length novels along with being a scientist, photographer, filmmaker and activist. Micheal Mahl was the first sophomore to be elected president of his class at Aldo Leopold. A natural and quiet leader he was an amazing musician and emerging biologist. Ella Kirk had worked as an activist protecting the Gila River from a proposed diversion project. She had almost single handedly collected 6500 signatures opposing the project and personally delivered them to New Mexico’s Governor’s office prior to addressing the New Mexico State Legislature.
These “kids” were already leaders of their community. They were doing world class scientific research that was being used by the Forest Service. Even before they passed they were all known throughout the community and loved and looked to by youth and adults alike as role models.
Sitting with their families discussing, in on-camera interviews, the almost unspeakable horror of losing a child I was struck by a few things. The immeasurable grief was conjoined with a sense of immense gratitude among the parents and siblings to have had Ella, Micheal and Ella in their lives. While they were all crippled by grief they were also acutely aware of their blessings in having the time they’d had with these kids. As they spoke of them or took me to their favorite places around Silver City and the Gila Wilderness it seemed that the kids were with us; guiding me in telling their story and guiding their parents through their journey of grief.
Ella, Michael and Ella burned bright. Taken young, they already had made immense contributions to their communities and arguably to their world. We can never know where or when an MLK, a Ghandi or Mother Theresa might emerge amongst us. These kids had the potential to contribute to humanity at that level. What we’ve lost with them can never be known.
That having been said, they lived at a fever pitch. It’s almost as if they knew they had a shorter time on this earth. Their accomplishments far outweigh their years and their writings and communications betrayed a strange prescience about their looming mortality. They gave big while they were here and they left us with so much.
A Heart, A Soul, A Voice is a collaboration with their families and community in an effort to communicate their legacy for them. It is a Journey of grief and redemption as we explore what it means to survive loss and what ripples a life well-lived can leave behind in the pond of humanity. These young people were working to change the world and without a doubt they have and they will. It is through their legacies and memories that we can all redouble our efforts to improve the world in which we live. They inspire us as we move through our lives and call us to be our best selves and to live up to our potential. They show us every day what can be accomplished when the heart, the soul and the voice move as one.
It has been a great honor to be a part of telling their story.
Silver City, New Mexico