Watching the divers plunge into the Robison Pool at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Sunday, Dawn Wind imagined her daughter, Bailey, in their place.
“I’ve been told she has the pointiest toes, a tiny splash. She’s very graceful. She’s a beautiful diver,” she said with pride.
Two weeks ago, when Bailey’s neck was broken and her jaw was shattered in an automobile accident that left two Shenendehowa High School seniors dead and a third seriously injured, Wind wasn’t sure if she’d ever see her 17-year-old dive again.
“I was just hoping to God that my daughter was going to be able to walk again, that she was alive,” she said.
Sunday, Bailey was sitting in the bleachers at the pool, all smiles, watching dripping wet divers take to the boards in her honor again and again, as part of the Dive for Bailey Flip-a-thon.
The event was organized by Kelly Moran, a fellow member of the Flip and Rip Diving Team, with help from her mother, Suzi.
Close to 40 divers collected about $10,000 in pledges to help offset expenses associated with Bailey’s recovery.
The bills are expected to be extensive, but Bailey’s mom doesn’t even have a ballpark estimate on that yet.
“I haven’t even gone there,” she said. “I’m just thankful my daughter’s alive. Nothing matters other than that. Absolutely nothing.”
Gratefulness radiated from Wind as she soaked up the atmosphere in the warm, humid pool area, a place she hadn’t visited since before the accident.
The air was filled with upbeat music, happy chatter and the splash of divers hitting the water. Silver garland glittered from the poolside railing.
“Just watching makes me miss diving a lot,” Bailey observed, a comment her mother said was “music to her heart.”
The Shaker High School senior is a member of the varsity diving team and has been participating in the sport since she was 9. At the rate she’s recovering, she could be trading jeans and a sweat shirt for a swimsuit in the not-too-distant future.
Bailey is scheduled for X-rays Friday, to ensure her broken bones are healing correctly. She’ll need to wear a neck brace for about four more weeks, and her mouth repairs will be a lengthy process, but she’s getting better by leaps and bounds, her mom said.
Five of Bailey’s teeth are missing, but that didn’t stop her from regularly flashing a bright smile Sunday morning.
“I still plan to do everything I set out to do,” she said with conviction.
“Everything” includes attending the University of Tennessee in the fall, on a diving scholarship.
When the university got wind of the diving fundraiser being held in Bailey’s honor, the dive team reached out to event organizers and bought the gray-and-blue “Dive for Bailey” T-shirts, which were sold at Sunday’s event, for every one of their team’s members.
“I knew before that we picked the right school for her; I know even more now,” Wind said. “They have been so supportive. They’re incredible. She’s excited about going.”
Although there’s excitement for the future, Bailey also dives into it with sadness, knowing she won’t share the days to come with her boyfriend, Chris Stewart, or her close friend, Deanna Rivers, who were both killed in the Dec. 1 crash.
Surrounded by a caring community has helped ease the pain, but nights are hard, her mother admitted.
“I dread bedtime because that’s when her mind winds down. I sob with her and rub her back every night,” she said.
Chris often came to the pool to cheer on Bailey.
“He used to have to take a walk outside because it was so hot in here,” Wind recalled.
In his place, his mom and brother sat in the bleachers Sunday. They’d seen the videos Chris took at Bailey’s practices, but this was their first time at a diving event.
“It’s exciting. We want something nice to happen for Bailey. She’s fabulous,” said Chris’ mom, Regina Stewart.
All of the nice things that have happened since the crash — the candlelight vigil, the fundraisers, the enormous outpouring of support — can be traced back to two people, Wind believes.
“I know it’s Chris and Deanna behind all of it, because that’s who they were,” she said. “Chris and Deanna just wanted everybody to get along and to be happy with each other.”
Credit for Sunday’s event also goes to the local diving community, the members of which poured an enormous amount of work and love into it.
“It’s like a family. It’s very small and when one of us falls, we go with them and we pick them back up,” Suzi Moran said.
Bailey was undoubtedly feeling buoyed by that love as she watched the divers plunge into the pool in her honor.
“There’s a lot of kids I’ve never seen before here. I just can’t believe it’s this big of a turnout,” she said, her countenance bright. “It’s just amazing and I’m so glad for all this great support, and I just want to thank everybody.”