'Miracle' allows Manchester man to get closure 51 years after father's death
MANCHESTER, Tenn. (WZTV) —
Robert Striff III's father died in an Albatross Coast Guard plane in the Yukon Territory of Canada.
He was searching for the Congressman's plane which had gone down in the area. As the radio operator in the plane, Striff Jr., was likely hanging out the plane's window looking for the lost aircraft when his pilot made a wrong turn right into a mountain.
The Coast Guard retrieved the bodies, but Striff and his family soon had to move back to Ohio. For 51 years, he had to accept a military summary of his father's crash.
"They can tell you til they're blue in the face about what happened and all that, but to actually get to the site and visit the site and know what happened," Striff said.
Earlier this year, a pair of explorers, Kyle and Sara Cameron, hiked miles into the mountainous area and found the wreckage. More than 3,000 miles away, they found Robert Striff, and he knew he had to visit.
"It was one of those, 'you get a lump in your throat.' It's pretty emotional but at the same time though, it's a relief," Striff said. "To finally get that off my back is just, it's a long time coming. Let's put it that way."
On the 51st anniversary of his father's crash during Alaska's canalicular season, Robert Striff III stood in Canada's Yukon Territory over the wreckage --an opportunity at closure and peace.
Remarkably preserved, the plane was still in decent shape for something that just spent half of a century in the elements. Striff found his father's rifle, the steel toes from his boots and even his father's watch -- eerily stopped at 2:20 p.m., the very time of the crash.
Striff said the most surreal part of the adventure was "...the fact that we were standing on the very spot where my dad had passed. That and the exact day and time, 51 years later."
Striff will now get to take other family members to Alaska to get the same chance at closure that he received thanks to the courage and diligence of the Camerons -- strangers who searched Striffs in Ohio on Facebook and found Robert shortly thereafter.
Last year, Striff was awarded an honorary sword from the military on behalf his father for "meritorious service." Now he will be able to put several facets of his father's life next to that sword, a shrine to a man who inspired an entire family to service.