Myra Fees has been through trying times before, when her son had a brain tumor and when her family survived a house fire with no insurance.
But nothing compares with the past few days.
“This is the hardest I’ve ever lived through,” Fees said Wednesday as she waited at her Rozet home for news of her daughter and granddaughter, whose small plane has been missing since Sunday. “It’s been a nightmare. Nobody’s really sleeping … I don’t remember having this kind of pain for anything.”
Fees’ daughter, Trista Meyer, grew up in Piedmont, S.D., and graduated in 1998 from Sturgis Brown High School. The 34-year-old was traveling with her daughter, Shyann Lenz, 9, and boyfriend, Matthew Ahrens, 37, from Bakersfield, Calif., in Ahrens’ aircraft. They had flown to California for Thanksgiving.
They were headed home to Gillette when their plane disappeared from radar Sunday afternoon. They were last seen in Filmore, Utah.
Meyer had texted her sister Meredith Meyer Johnson at 11:57 a.m. Sunday, telling her they had refueled in Fillmore — about 40 miles south of Provo — and were back up in the air. They should be home in a few hours, she said.
About that same time, Shyann texted her dad, Mark Lenz, a former South Dakota resident who now lives in Gillette.
“There’s been nothing since,” said Tessa Meland of Sturgis, who is Meyer’s younger sister.
Neither Ahrens, a mechanic, nor Meyer, a coal truck operator, had to work Monday. Meyer’s family had tried to call her Sunday but didn’t think much of it when they couldn’t reach her.
“We had just assumed that her phone was dead,” Meland said.
Ahrens’ family was trying to reach him, too. And by Monday, both families knew the plane had not reached Gillette. Since then, search planes and ground crews have been tracking the plane’s route, much of which passed over mountainous terrain.
Lt. Stephen Miller of the Utah Civil Air Patrol said no signals had been received from the plane as of Wednesday.
“We did get a tip out of the Mount Pleasant (Utah) area that they saw the plane in the air, which is a good sign,” he said.
The tipster reportedly saw the plane — white with a red stripe — flying low to the ground in a “fairly good-sized valley” near Mount Pleasant, Utah, on Sunday afternoon.
On Wednesday, there were nine planes in the air searching, Miller said, including planes from the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol and one from Colorado.
“We’re really hoping that we can find them today, but they’re already starting to plan for tomorrow,” he said Wednesday, adding that the weather has been cooperative.
Meanwhile, family and friends are hoping and praying that Meyer, Ahrens and Shyann will make it home safely.
“Nobody’s giving up hope,” said D.D. Wilt, a family friend. She described both Ahrens and Meyer — who was working on her own pilot’s license — as “outdoorsy.”
"I believe they could survive being outside,” she said.
Meland and Fees agreed with that assessment.
“She’s always been a strong woman, taking care of herself,” Fees said. “There’s nothing she won’t tackle.”
Shyann, a fourth-grader at Buffalo Ridge Elementary in Gillette, is Fees' oldest granddaughter.
"She loves animals, and we're in the process of getting her signed up for 4-H," said Fees, adding that the girl has a horse, a rabbit, two cats and a frog named Grace. "She's grandma's good little helper, too."
"I was really wishing she was here yesterday, too, because all these other little grandkids are here and made a mess," said Fees, adding that if Shyann been there, she would have watched the littler ones and then cleaned up after them.
"She's just really a helpful little girl," Fees said fondly. "A bossy little babysitter, kind of."
Family and friends are asking Wyoming and Utah landowners to check their property for anything unusual. They are also asking people to keep an eye out for Ahrens's two dogs, a Great Dane mix and a pit bull, that were also on board the missing plane.
Most of all, they're asking for prayers.
"That's what's going to bring them home, is prayers," Fees said.
A Facebook page, Prayers for Trista, Shy and Matthew, has been set up to connect family and friends and share any news. For Mark Lenz, it's also become a place to post messages of love to his daughter.
A candlelight vigil was planned for Wednesday night at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport.