Weekly Feature

2012-04-18 / Local News

Tolsma shares story in Everything Changed’

¦ Flight 3407 widow describes turning ‘personal tragedy into public triumph’
Clarence Editor

Robin Tolsma’s book, “Everything Changed,” hit shelves on Tuesday. Robin Tolsma’s book, “Everything Changed,” hit shelves on Tuesday. Robin Tolsma wants her new book, “Everything Changed,” to inspire others.

Tolsma lost her husband, Darren, in the crash of Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009. Information for her book describes “Everything Changed” as the story of how she “turned her personal tragedy into a public triumph.”

The Lancaster resident said she wrote her book as if she were sitting down with the reader, sharing memories from journal entries and what it was like to hear from the medical examiner and receive her husband’s personal effects.

Tolsma has also joined with other Flight 3407 families to push for airline reform on a national level.

“I wanted to share the story because I felt like the public has been very much a part of this process for me,” said Tolsma.

She held a launch party at Russell’s Grand Hotel on April 16, near where owner Russell J. Salvatore is installing a Flight 3407 memorial.

The first public book signing is planned for April 28, at the Made in America Store at 900 Maple Road in Elma.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit organization No Soldier Left Behind in honor of her husband, who was an avid supporter of the military.

Tolsma decided to begin writing the book after bone graft surgery sidelined her for six weeks, and she continued writing while recovering from another surgery a year and a half later.

She said Clarence resident Jennifer West, who also lost her husband, Ernie, in the crash, is threaded throughout her story because they shared so much together. She and West had discussed writing a book together, but Tolsma has older children and had the opportunity to complete her book first.

She’s the first of the Flight 3407 families to write a book but thinks others will tell their stories in the future. She’d also like to write another book called “Still Changing” that continues to chronicle her experience.

If there’s one lesson she wants people to encounter in “Everything Changed,” it is to let go of hatred, she said. As a Lancaster teacher, Tolsma would tell her students that they might hate a person’s actions but shouldn’t hate the person.

A student reminded her of that after the crash.

“Once I did that, and I was able to stop hating Colgan, Continental and Bombardier, I was able to look at a sunset without feeling guilty ... for me it was very liberating,” she said.

She recently had the opportunity to make contact with the widow of Flight 3407 pilot Capt. Marvin Renslow and offer her condolences after trying to reach her for three years.

Tolsma is involved in the continuing fight for air safety reform and said she’s always ready to help Karen Eckert, John Kausner, Kevin Kuwik and other members of the Flight 3407 families who are on the front lines of the effort.

Their primary goal is to ensure that the level of safety is not lower for regional airlines, she said.

The book hit the shelves on April 17 and will be available at locations including the Tops on Broadway, Talking Leaves on Main Street and Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, the Made in America Store, The Bookworm in East Aurora, and Wegmans, as well as lulu.com.

Return to top