Student graduates despite family loss

By Natalie Fultz

COLUMBUS, GA – It's a day she always imagined having her parents and younger sister attending, but in a tragic turn of events, Christen Bartley is receiving her diploma today without any of them there.

“It's exciting, but it's hard because it's a reminder of what I've lost and also what I've accomplished,” Bartley says.

She lost her family last summer in a fatal plane crash after a week long vacation in North Carolina.

“My dad's passion was flying. We had a six seater plane. For the six years before that I'd flown with them everywhere, but this particular summer I had to work so I worked the first two days and came up and met them there. That day, I put them on the plane, and I drove home,” Bartley says.

Two hours later, her mom, dad and younger sister died. Despite the hard times she's endured, Bartley is getting her Bachelor's degree in psychology today.

“Both of my parents had upper level degrees, and my younger sister was in college. Education has always been really important to our family and it's all been something that we've strived to do. Having them gone, I know that this is what they would have wanted for me,” Bartley says.

And even though they won't be there physically, Bartley says she knows they are with her in spirit.

“I was actually laying in bed, and my mom she was really goofy, and so she would always say, 'Get 'em Chris, go get 'em.' I could see her saying 'You did it,' it was like I knew that they were there, and I cried a little bit because it's sad…stuff like when I think about my wedding, but it's also a really happy moment because this is what they wanted and this is what I wanted, so I got there,” Bartley says.

Bartley says she has big plans for the future. She will be pursuing a Master's Degree and taking time to do mission work.  

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