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Date published: 9/13/2012
RENO, Nev.--Mixed in with the hot-dog stands, souvenir T-shirt tents, barbecue pits and model airplanes is a different kind of booth this year behind the grandstand
Race organizers have contracted with a private firm to provide two grief counselors to help spectators and participants alike deal with what is sure to be an emotional return for some after last year's deadly crash.
"We suspect everybody watching the air races will have a different emotional reaction," race spokesman Mike Draper said as planes roared overhead during Wednesday's qualifying heats. "If they struggle with their emotions, they'll have someone to talk to."
Roger Artie can relate. He saw Jimmy Leeward's P-51 crash nose-first into the box seats in front of the grandstand last Sept. 16, killing Leeward and 10 spectators and injuring more than 70.
"I was stunned when it happened," said Artie, a longtime air race volunteer and retired mental health technician from Reno.
"The plane crash was so close to me that I could have been killed if it wasn't so windy," he told The Associated Press during a break in the action Wednesday at Reno-Stead Airport.
"It's really helped for me to talk about it. It is a catharsis," Artie said in an interview Wednesday as jets, biplanes and vintage World War II fighters roared above the race course where competitors fly wingtip-to-wingtip at speeds up to 500 mph.