Special to The Explorer
Lang Charters was an Air Force pilot who loved to run 12 to 14 miles a day and competed in five marathons before he plummeted 20 feet while hiking and nearly died on Nov. 10, 2008.
This Sunday Dec. 13 – just one year and three months after he smashed face first into one rock, then bounced onto his back on another – he aims to run a 13.1-mile half marathon in the 2009 Tucson Marathon, run from Oracle into the Northwest.
The love of his life will be by his side as a safety coach – as she has been since the day she watched him fall in Red Rocks Canyon outside of Las Vegas.
Charters can no longer fly an airplane or drive a car. He can't run alone outdoors because the accident left him with balance issues, double vision and no peripheral vision.
Theirs is a story of love and faith. After a three-month courtship, mostly by phone, Lang and Carla planned to wed on New Year's Day 2009. Both are in their 30s and had been married before. They were hiking that fateful day with his 3-year-old daughter and her 8-year-old young son.
Lang sat on a rock and was scooting towards the edge to check out a path down, when the rock surface gave way. He fell face forward 20 feet or more. In a graphic blog, Carla later wrote: "You hit the first rock full force with your face, head and wrists. You bounced off the rock as if it were made of rubber … You flew the air and hit the second rock …. Your legs were over your head and your neck was bent crooked to the side. Your right eye was out of the socket."
A respiratory therapist named Julie from Missouri was hiking nearby and came to help. Lang stopped breathing. Julie held his head while Carla did mouth-to-mouth breathing. Finally he started to breath on his own and a helicopter crew arrived. Lang had broken his skull, cheek bones, jaw, nose, right wrist and his lower neck in three places.
Lang – and Carla – spent two months in ICU in Las Vegas, then three more months in a brain trauma injury center in Palo Alto.
The couple had already planned to move to Tucson, with Lang stationed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, where he had served previously for five years. Lang signed the papers on their Dove Mountain home six days before the autumn accident. They finally drove to Tucson on April 17 and were married in their new back yard on April 20.
Today – in addition to training for the half marathon – Carla is studying social work, then plans to complete a doctorate in physical therapy and Lang has completed a draft of a book about this life-altering experience.
On Dec. 9, the couple is telling its story to a film crew from The Christian Broadcasting Network for the long-running program The 700 Club that will air on Valentine's Day.
At 7 a.m. Sunday, they will be side-by-side at the starting line of the 2009 Tucson Marathon, aiming to complete the half marathon.