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A family honors their daughter who died a year ago at Big Four Ice Caves

A family honors their daughter who died a year ago at Big Four Ice Caves

  • Tamami Tam (center) breaks down after placing blueberries and popcorn -- two of her daughter's favorite foods -- around the memorial that she set up w...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam (center) breaks down after placing blueberries and popcorn -- two of her daughter's favorite foods -- around the memorial that she set up with her husband, John, and son, William (right), 10, for her 11-year-old daughter. Grace died last year when a piece of ice broke off and struck her at the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest east of Silverton. The Tams and family friends hiked to the ice caves Sunday in remembrance of Grace, and erected a cross in her honor at the spot where she died. Sunday was the first time that the Tams had been back since the accident.

  • Jamie Lawler, 9, and her mother, Lauri Lawler, stand together Sunday at the site where Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling piece of ice at the...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Jamie Lawler, 9, and her mother, Lauri Lawler, stand together Sunday at the site where Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling piece of ice at the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Lawlers joined the Tams and a few other families to hike back to the caves in remembrance of Grace, and to erect a cross in her honor at the spot where she died. Jamie, who was best friends with Grace, said, "here at least she can be in nature and be free."

  • Grace Tam

    Grace Tam

  • Tamami Tam (left), William Tam (right), 10, and John Tam (back center), place blueberries and popcorn on the memorial they set up for Grace, the Tam's...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam (left), William Tam (right), 10, and John Tam (back center), place blueberries and popcorn on the memorial they set up for Grace, the Tam's daughter who died last year when a piece of ice broke off and killed her at the Big 4 Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Tams and family friends hiked to the Ice Caves on Sunday in remembrance of Grace, and erected a cross in her honor at the spot where she died.

  • Tamami Tam, with son William, 10, and husband John, looks over at the spot where her 11-year-old daughter Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling ...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam, with son William, 10, and husband John, looks over at the spot where her 11-year-old daughter Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling piece of ice at the Big Four Ice Caves.

  • Grace Tam was killed a year ago at age 11 at the Big 4 Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualimie National Forest when a piece of ice broke off and stru...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Grace Tam was killed a year ago at age 11 at the Big 4 Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualimie National Forest when a piece of ice broke off and struck her.

  • Tamami Tam approaches the Big 4 Ice Caves on Sunday in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where her 11-year-old daughter Grace was killed last...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam approaches the Big 4 Ice Caves on Sunday in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where her 11-year-old daughter Grace was killed last year by a falling piece of ice.

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By Eric Stevick
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Tamami Tam (center) breaks down after placing blueberries and popcorn -- two of her daughter's favorite foods -- around the memorial that she set up w...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam (center) breaks down after placing blueberries and popcorn -- two of her daughter's favorite foods -- around the memorial that she set up with her husband, John, and son, William (right), 10, for her 11-year-old daughter. Grace died last year when a piece of ice broke off and struck her at the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest east of Silverton. The Tams and family friends hiked to the ice caves Sunday in remembrance of Grace, and erected a cross in her honor at the spot where she died. Sunday was the first time that the Tams had been back since the accident.

  • Jamie Lawler, 9, and her mother, Lauri Lawler, stand together Sunday at the site where Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling piece of ice at the...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Jamie Lawler, 9, and her mother, Lauri Lawler, stand together Sunday at the site where Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling piece of ice at the Big Four Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Lawlers joined the Tams and a few other families to hike back to the caves in remembrance of Grace, and to erect a cross in her honor at the spot where she died. Jamie, who was best friends with Grace, said, "here at least she can be in nature and be free."

  • Grace Tam

    Grace Tam

  • Tamami Tam (left), William Tam (right), 10, and John Tam (back center), place blueberries and popcorn on the memorial they set up for Grace, the Tam's...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam (left), William Tam (right), 10, and John Tam (back center), place blueberries and popcorn on the memorial they set up for Grace, the Tam's daughter who died last year when a piece of ice broke off and killed her at the Big 4 Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Tams and family friends hiked to the Ice Caves on Sunday in remembrance of Grace, and erected a cross in her honor at the spot where she died.

  • Tamami Tam, with son William, 10, and husband John, looks over at the spot where her 11-year-old daughter Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling ...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam, with son William, 10, and husband John, looks over at the spot where her 11-year-old daughter Grace Tam was killed last year by a falling piece of ice at the Big Four Ice Caves.

  • Grace Tam was killed a year ago at age 11 at the Big 4 Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualimie National Forest when a piece of ice broke off and stru...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Grace Tam was killed a year ago at age 11 at the Big 4 Ice Caves in the Mount Baker-Snoqualimie National Forest when a piece of ice broke off and struck her.

  • Tamami Tam approaches the Big 4 Ice Caves on Sunday in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where her 11-year-old daughter Grace was killed last...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Tamami Tam approaches the Big 4 Ice Caves on Sunday in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where her 11-year-old daughter Grace was killed last year by a falling piece of ice.

SILVERTON -- John Tam swung his hammer 88 times before the lavender cross was firmly anchored in the mountain ice.
The Marysville man, 56, undertook the task with a firm yet cautious hand, pounding on a wood scrap he placed atop the cross to protect it from splintering.
The father stepped back.
"Hi Grace," he yelled at the top of his lungs.
A muffled echo bounced back off the sheer 4,000-foot rock wall. It's here, about 20 miles east of Granite Falls, where water cascades into avalanche-dumped snow to create the Big Four Ice Caves, a popular hiking destination.
Sunday -- their 14th wedding anniversary -- marked a year to the day that John and Tamami Tam lost their daughter. Surrounded by friends in a gentle misty rain, they placed beneath the homemade cross a bouquet of pink and purple flowers and scattered around it popcorn and blueberries, her favorite snacks.
Grace Tam died from crushing pelvic injuries after she was struck by a huge chunk of ice. The family heeded warning signs and stayed off the ice. Grace was a good 15 to 17 feet in front when the ice broke off, bounced and hit her.
The Kellogg Marsh Elementary School student was 11, full of curiosity and energy and dreams of some day opening a shelter for mistreated pets.
For two hours that day, her family waited for help near the caves in a cranny of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest where cell phones to call for help are rendered useless by the rugged terrain. Nurses who were hiking nearby did their best to keep Grace alive, but the girl died before rescuers could get her to a hospital.
"I miss Grace," John Tam said Sunday. "There is not a day that goes by that I don't miss her."
As is its practice after a death or serious injury, the U.S. Forest Service spent several months examining ways to make the area safer.
It explored several options, including closing the area entirely and giving tickets to people who leave the trail. There wasn't the personnel for it, Forest Service Ranger Peter Forbes said.
Instead, more signs warning about the danger of the caves, as well as rocks and avalanches, have been and will be installed. Rocks have been placed at the end of the trail.
"It is not to the point where it creates a wall, but it does send a message that this is the end of the trail," Forbes said.
"It is obvious that we are not intending for people to leave the trail."
An emergency phone is being placed near the Silverton campground, shortening the distance to call 911 by about eight miles.
There has been training for search and rescue volunteers and emergency workers aimed at improving response times and communication to the remote area around the caves.
"What we are trying to do is understand what the communication issues are and how we can work within the limitations they present us," Forbes said.
There also is a uniformed volunteer with a radio working on summer weekends in the Big Four recreation area.
While all the new safety measures might make conditions safer for others, they can't bring back Grace.
On this Sunday, friends and acquaintances accompanied by a single guitar sang "Amazing Grace" with the Tam family before making the one-mile hike toward the ice caves. Grace's younger brother, William, and her dog, Sugar, were part of the hiking party.
The procession up the trail included Travis Hots, chief of the Getchell Fire Department east of Marysville. He was at home cooking crab the day Grace died but drove up to the Ice Caves to try to help. It was too late.
"This call was a struggle for me," he said. "I have young kids. I will never get used to it."
As he walked up the trail, he held hands with his daughter, Lydia, 7, and son, Caden, 4.
Also on the trail were Lauri Lawler and her daughter, Jamie, 9.
They are next door neighbors to the Tams.
Lawler said it is still hard for her to believe that Grace is gone.
"They are the most cautious and protective parents I know," she said.
Jamie was Grace's frequent playmate. They used to build indoor forts fashioned from couches, cushions and blankets during sleepovers.
It was Grace who taught Jamie to overcome her fear of dogs.
Jamie took some solace in the natural beauty surrounding the site where she lost her friend.
"Here at least she can be in nature and be free," she said.
John Tam vowed to continue honoring his daughter's memory. He looks forward to the publication of a book with Grace's writings.
All the hugs and handshakes and kind words the father received Sunday could not fill the sense of emptiness he still feels.
"There is no closure, no closure at all," he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com





Story tags » MarysvilleVerlotAccidents (general)

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