ithin a stone’s throw of curvy Oak Hill Road, Ava Floyd’s childlike innocence suddenly turns to caution.
With an ear-to-ear smile and a relatively outgoing personality, the 5 year old slows down when she nears the edge of the road in front of her family’s rural home. It’s easy to sense in her demeanor that it was on that road that her life changed forever.
“I’m scared of the road,” she says, her hands firmly gripping her bicycle with a jittery laugh to hide her nervous energy. “I’m scared to take my bike that close to the road.”
Memories of her last bike ride on that road, which also happened to be her first, exactly one year ago, certainly justify her hesitance.
“Her dad saved her,” says Aimee Floyd, mother of Ava, Michael, 7, and Faith, 11.
“He pushed her out of the way of [the van]. He started to push Faith … and that’s when he took the brunt of the impact.”
In actions that can only be described as heroic and selfless, Stacey Lee Floyd, 40, did what he could to save his family on April 11, 2012, as they were all enjoying a sunny, spring afternoon while riding bikes down Oak Hill Rd. less than a half mile from their home. Stacey’s family survived. Stacey died. He was 40 years old.
“We knew a van was coming … [Stacey] yelled van and everyone went single file on the white line. They all knew what to do,” recalls Aimee, adding that the van, driven by Sheryl Marsee, was approaching from behind. “It’s funny because just two-tenths of a mile before that we traded places and he went to the back and said, ‘I’m going to take the back with Ava the rest of the way home.'”
As if it were only yesterday, Aimee’s recollections are crisp.
“It was Ava’s first ride with us on the road and I can hear [Stacey] telling her, ‘you are doing such a good job for your first road ride. Just stay here and don’t be nervous; they will go around us.’
“We had probably had four or five other vehicles go past us in both directions within minutes and we didn’t have any problems. He was talking to Ava and I heard something that sounded like a tire blowing and I turned around to yell at them, you know, watch out there’s a tire blowing and that’s when the van actually hit me.”
The family of five’s joy ride quickly turned into a hellish afternoon. Four of the Floyd’s were strewn out in the road and the ditch from the impact. Michael, who was leading the group at the time of the crash, was found approximately 300 feet from the point of impact.
Ava, who was riding directly in front of her dad, was never hit.
“Ava jumped up and said, ‘Dad, why did you push me,'” Aimee describes.
Faith was next.
“He started to push her and that’s when he got hit and her bike broke her wrist,” recalls Aimee. “But had he not started to push her it probably would have been …”
Aimee and Michael were next to get hit.
“I can hardly lift this arm,” says Aimee, pointing to her right shoulder. “There were multiple fractures – feet, femur and elbows … tendons popped in my shoulder.”
Michael, despite some muscle spasms and chronic back pains, has been lucky and not experienced any lingering health problems like his mom, who is still in need of medical attention.
“Watch how fast I can ride my bike around the house,” says Michael, full of energy and not hesitant to get on his new bike and show his skills with a front wheelie.
“They have all handled it differently,” explains Aimee. “They have good days and bad days. They have days they cry and days they get mad and want to scream and yell and don’t understand why.”
As the one-year anniversary of Stacey’s death has been approaching, recalling the good times has been healing for the Floyd family. They even found old home videos.
“Michael and I were sitting on the couch the other night and he says, ‘momma, I can’t remember daddy’s voice or his laugh.’ So we got out the camcorder, which I didn’t think I would be able to do. But we went through videos from when they were all younger and when they were born. We have done that the last few nights and just sat and watched and listened.
“I thought,” adds Aimee, pausing for a moment to gather her thoughts, “I thought I would break down and lose it. But it has been healing and really good for us and just remember, you know.”
A family man
Aimee did not hesitate to describe her late husband as “the ultimate” family man.
“If we couldn’t do it together then we didn’t do it,” Aimee said of her husband of almost 14 years. “He used to love fishing and things like that but as the kids got older they would chase him up the driveway when he would leave for tournaments and it broke his heart.”
With a bad knee that prevented him from doing many typical physical activities and the need to find family activities, Stacey took up biking.
“He was a wrestle on the floor, pick and play kind of person,” explains Aimee. “And just silly. He was wearing his knee brace on the day we were hit and we would have dogs run out at us and he would say, ‘don’t sorry kids they can chew on my brace,’ and he would weave over towards the dogs …just silly things.”
Ride to Remember
With the one-year anniversary of Stacey’s death in April, Aimee teamed up with the Manchester Recreation Department for the “Ride to Remember” in his memory.
The bicycle ride will be April 20 and is open to all ages.
“There are different levels so you don’t have to be an insane rider,” says Aimee, later admitting that her participation will depend on her seemingly dormant physical recovery.
There is a 15-mile ride that will go to WillowBrook Golf Course and back and the 60-mile ride will weave a trail on the roads around the Normandy area. The children’s ride will take place on the cart path at the now-closed Old Stone Fort State Golf Course.
“That’s good so the kids aren’t on the roads.”
The cost to ride is $25 and $15 for each additional family member who lives in the same house. A $10 pancake breakfast ($5 for children) will be at 6 a.m. at the recreation complex and the adult rides will start at 8 a.m. with the children ride at noon. All proceeds will go towards the new youth wellness room at the recreation complex.
“Stacey really liked that new room and was big on the kids staying fit so that is why we chose that.”
Anyone interested can sign up at the Manchester Recreation Complex – 557 N. Woodland St. – or visit www.active.com.
Battered and hardly able to move, Aimee had to tell her children that their father had died.
“I hope that is the hardest thing that I will ever have to do,” explains Aimee.
After the accident and while at an area hospital, the Floyd children learned that their mom was going to eventually be OK. That’s when they wanted to find their dad.
“They said well OK mom we know you are going to be fine, can they take us to the hospital that dad is at? And I had to tell them.”
Without their dad, all three went home and jumped back on bikes. None, though, have ridden on the road since the accident. MOAB Bike Shop in Murfreesboro replaced the damaged bikes for the family free of charge.
“They say, ‘dad wouldn’t want us to sit around and boohoo over this.'”
Understandably, the carpe diem mentality sometimes wavers into curiosity and grief.
“Ava asked me once why her dad didn’t go in the ditch and I told her, ‘because he knew the great things that you and your sister have yet to come in your life. He saved you so you can do those things.’
“And I told her there has to … there has to be a reason you are still here.”
-Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He can be reached at email@example.com