Bryona Crable has driven herself to a new life.
Despite neglect, abuse, transience and public tragedy, she pushed herself to graduate from high school. Last week, she walked with her Bethel High School classmates and a grade point average near 3.0.
Two days later, with everything she owns packed in a 1997 Jeep Laredo, the 18-year-old drove toward a new home and community college in southern Oregon.
The Jeep was a gift – a rare recognition of what Crable has overcome and, at the worst moment in her life, the courage it took.
She’s the daughter of David Crable, who, on Dec. 21, 2009, got drunk, refused to leave his brother’s house near Eatonville, and shot a pair of Pierce County Sheriff’s deputies.
Deputy Kent Mundell died a week later, leaving a widow and two children. Sgt. Nicholas Hausner survived.
Bryona Crable was 16 when it happened, out of school for the Christmas season her family wasn’t doing much to celebrate. There was a lot of drinking that night. She told police her dad had finished a bottle of tequila by 9 p.m.
“My uncle was telling him he had to move by January 1,” Crable remembered last week. “(Dad) hadn’t had a job since I was in the seventh grade.”
The argument heated up, and the uncle called deputies to get David Crable out of the house. The deputies offered him a ride to a friend’s house.
“He went to pack his stuff and came out with the gun and started shooting,” she recalled. “I ran after my dad, trying to get the gun from him. I grabbed on to him as he was shooting and running through the house. I was just doing what I could.
“I remember looking down and seeing someone bleeding, then running out of the house screaming.”
She ran to a neighbor’s home and told 911 dispatchers what arriving officers needed to know.
“If that girl hadn’t have fought him, he might have gone back and shot the brother and the girlfriend and Nick again,” Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said shortly after the killings.
Troyer arranged for Christmas gifts for her from Toys for Tots.
“We wanted to do what we could for her,” he said. “I can’t imagine being a 16-year-old girl and going through what she went through.”
Police considered her a hero, but she could not face returning to Graham-Kapowsin High School, where Mundell’s daughter also was a student. She transferred to Orting High School. It was one more disruption in a life that had gone from unsettled to chaotic.
Bryona Crable’s mother was 16 and her father was 18 when she was born.
Her father took her home and cared for her for about six months.
“My grandma took me in foster care until I was almost 4, then I moved in with dad,” she said.
He was an auto mechanic, and they lived in Auburn, where she went to Dick Scobee Elementary School, then Cascade Middle School.
Things began to fall apart after her father hurt his back and couldn’t work. They tried living in Spanaway with her uncle, aunt and grandmother.
“That didn’t work out,” she said.
She tried living with her uncle and aunt in Eatonville, then bounced to Orting to live with her dad’s best friend, whom she called an unofficial uncle. From there, it was back to her uncle’s in Eatonville before he assaulted her and went to prison for violating restraining orders. She moved in with her ex-boyfriend’s family in Spanaway.
Since Bethel Junior High School, Crable has attended Graham-Kapowsin, Orting, Eatonville and Bethel high schools.
That’s the kind of school history that sinks grades and discourages students.
Not Crable. School was the most stable thing in her life, the only way to be better than all the people who had failed her.
“I love school,” she said.
Her grandmother, Pat Crable of Grants Pass, Ore., respects her for that.
“She got herself up every day,” she said. “No one else was there to get her up to go to school every day.”
Sallie Stewart respects that kind of drive. Stewart, who is married to a Puyallup police officer, founded Hero’s for Hero’s in the wake of Mundell’s murder.
The idea was to provide money for the children of slain law enforcement officers, but also to help people who tried to mitigate tragedies.
“When you do the right thing, not only will the community rally for you, law enforcement will rally for you,” Stewart said of its purpose. “They wish the best for you. They do.”
As she signed the paperwork establishing the nonprofit, Stewart had Bryona Crable in mind.
Stewart spoke with the girl about Hero’s for Hero’s plans to help her.
“She said, ‘I don’t have to have that life. I can make better choices.’ She thought she wanted something in the medical field, so she could help people,” Stewart said.
Working with the board, the nonprofit raised $15,000 at an auction, gave two-thirds of it to the Mundell children and set aside some of the rest for Crable. They agreed that if she’s going to find a job and go to school, she needs a car. (Stewart, by the way, knows the nonprofit’s name is bad grammar, but explained that Heroes for Heroes was already taken.)
Working with Troyer, they found the Jeep at a good price. They presented it to Crable, along with her first car insurance payments, after graduation.
Everyone cried, and Stewart gave Crable her number.
“You count,” she told the graduate. “You matter. If ever you should forget that, call me, and I will remind you.”firstname.lastname@example.org