It’s been almost three months since a plane crashed into Ken Gemmell’s home in Gaithersburg, MD, killing his wife, Marie; their toddler, Cole; and their newborn, Devin. The nation mourned with Ken and his surviving daughter, Arabelle, through this tragic and devastating lost. Within days, an online fundraiser raised nearly $500K while donations of clothes, necessities, and toys poured in. Our hearts broke for this family and because of that communal heartbreak, a local NBC affiliate caught up with Ken and Arabelle earlier this week to see how this beloved family was coping in the aftermath…
During the two-part segment, Ken recalled how hard it was to explain the tragedy to 7-year-old Arabelle. “It didn’t make sense to her.”
But, he said the outpouring of support from the community has helped. She’s received countless letters and toys and invitations to events. In fact, the Gemmells’ favorite team, the Denver Broncos, even flew Ken and Arabelle to a playoff game.
Ken said these events are hard for him. He knows they are there, because of what happened, but “to see my daughter smile at these events is really cool”.
“As I tell me daughter, we don’t want to let this completely defeat us. We don’t want it to become what defines our lives,” Ken recalled in his interview. “For the most part, we just need to persevere and do what we can to honor Marie, Cole and Devin.”
As a high school and Facebook friend of Ken’s, I can attest to the fact that they are slowly trying to put their lives back together, finding a balance between preserving precious memories of the past and trying to move forward into this new and altered future. When the house was torn down, they went together to say goodbye, to give Arabelle some closure. When they were ready, they slowly returned to work and school. Ken seems to always put Arabelle’s needs first and think in terms of what’s best for her. He’s a great dad and, as a single dad, he’s trying to create a sense of normalcy for his daughter, taking her to sleepover parties, even learning how to cook. (He’s posted pictures of his culinary triumphs and I have to say the mushroom risotto and homemade pizza looked amazing!)
He’s also posted daily memories of his lost family – these are bittersweet to read. You can feel the love and the hurt and the yearning. I still wish I could somehow fix it and make this go away for him. But I truly admire his courage and his strength to go on for Arabelle. I also admire Arabelle herself. Because so many people have helped her, she now wants to help others. In fact, I recall a Facebook post where Ken proudly commented that Arabelle received so many Christmas toys, she wanted to donate some. That touched my heart.
A friend of the family created a website, www.LoveGemmell.com, where friends and family can post their favorite memories of Marie, Cole and Devin, so Arabelle will know them better. I love this idea. I cannot imagine growing up without my mother or kid brother. I applaud this effort and every effort that has been made on the behalf of the Gemmells. The one positive throughout this tragedy is that there really is good in the world and I’m so grateful little Arabelle will grow up knowing that. I hope that gives Marie some peace. She seemed like an extraordinary mom.
If you’d like to watch the two-part segment, please click on the following links:
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