Helping Others Through Art Is How This Woman Deals With Her Own Unbearable Grief | KNKX

Helping Others Through Art Is How This Woman Deals With Her Own Unbearable Grief

Jul 13, 2019


This story originally aired on May 26, 2018.

On January 31, 2000, Claire Barnett lost 10 people she loved dearly on Alaska Airlines Flight 261. Two of the people on board were her daughters, 8-year-old Coriander Clemetson and 6-year-old Blake Clemetson.


The girls were coming back from Mexico with their father, their stepmother, their 6-year-old stepbrother and their new 6-month-old baby brother. The MD-83 crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California after a faulty screw forced the plane into a nosedive.


“People think it gets easier, and it is not my experience in any way that it gets easier. I get stronger and the pain gets bigger. And I would tell people who have children, if you can imagine not seeing your child for a week, and then not seeing them for a month, and not seeing them for a year. The idea that it was easier to have not seen them for a year than it was to have not seen them for a week is an insane concept. And having not seen my daughters for 18 years is unbearable to me,” says Claire.


Claire says she became a ghost that day. But, after a while she came to realize, “My constitution made it so that the only things that made the day a little less painful was doing things to help other people.”


After the crash, when Cori’s birthday arrived, family and friends planted her namesake -- coriander, a green leafy herb -- into the ground.


When Blake’s birthday appeared on the calendar, Claire took the short trip from Seattle to Blake Island in Puget Sound -- something her daughter had wanted to do.


Birthdays, holidays, the anniversary of the accident, Claire calls these the unbearable days. In this story, we hear how ritual, community and arranging beautiful pieces of colored glass has helped Claire to manage her grief and help others who are trying to get through their own dark days.