Five Years After Serious Injury, Grier Passes Bar

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Yes, he's a lawyer, but don't hold that against Tim Grier.

He's earned the right to be anything he wants to be.

Grier is a native of Topeka Kans. who, in the Rim country, owns and operates the Forest Lakes Touring Center, a haven for cross-country skiers and vacationers.

But that's not what makes him a special fellow.

He's also a certified hero, who was very nearly killed five years ago while attempting to save the lives of two young children.

That story began June 9, 1995 in the Canyon Point Campground of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, when Grier was working summers doing public relations for the U.S. Forest Service.

Grier was preparing to show a movie to a group of children, ages two to 13, when the 18-foot high outdoor screena massive 4,000-pound log structurebegan to topple in the direction of the children.

Grier simultaneously warned the children to run and tried, in vain, to keep the structure from falling. Most of the children made it to safety by the time Grier tried to dash to safety himself.

He didn't make it. The 23-year-old structure fell down and caught Grier from the waist down. His pelvis was smashed, both knees and his left leg were broken, his shoulder and hips were dislocated.

One of the children, a 9-year-old, was hospitalized with a sprained ankle, and a 2-year old bit his tongue. But that was the full extent of the youngsters' injuries.

"The first five days (of his hospitalization), there was a question mark as to whether or not I was going to make it," Grier said. "I thought I was going to live, though. At least after the first hour.

"I had worked as an EMT as a volunteer firefighter for 12 or 13 years, so I was too familiar with the mechanics of blood pressure and vitals and all of that, and my blood pressure was sinking like a rock. I knew very realistically that I was in serious trouble. In EMT there's a saying, 'The ball game's over when the blood pressure drops.' At that point, no one knew if I'd even make it to the hospital alive.

"I found out there were a lot of different levels of pain out there that I hadn't experienced before then."

Grier was transported by ambulance to Payson Regional Medical Center, then air-lifted to the Scottsdale Memorial Hospital, where physicians wondered aloud whether or not Grier would ever walk again.

"I don't think I ever thought that," he said. "I did wonder, though, if I would ever be able to run or cross-country ski again, because I'd always led an active life and made a living with my legs as a cross-country ski instructor. ... I was running half-marathons and a lot of 10Ks, too, so being active was very important to me."

Grier describes himself as "one of Arizona's first avid cross-country skiers back when it was a new sport for the state, around 1977 or so. There weren't any cross-country ski centers to speak of back then, or areas where trails were groomed. I'd go up there on my weekends away from college to cross-country ski on top of the Rimand thought it would be a great place to start a touring center."

The college he attended as an English major was Arizona State University, after his family moved from Kansas to the Valley in 1972.

"I didn't really know what I was going to do with an English degree, so in 1979 I started up a cross-country ski shop and opened the Forest Lakes Touring Center. Then I started to build some cabins, and today it's a full-fledged cross-country ski center with 32 miles of groomed trails. We do ski lessons and rentals and tours. We have rental cabins up there, year-round, as well as an RV park. I've been doing that business for about 20 years now."

Cross-country and telemark skiing were Grier's life until the accident not only threatened his ability to walk, but to ski.

"I was pretty stubborn, though" he said. "I always thought that I would ski again. But I did have to come to terms with the fact that the doctors were pretty accurate with their prognosis. They would tell me it would take so long to get better, and I stubbornly would say, 'No it won't, I'm going to get better before that.'

"Well, I found out that most of the time they were right. But they were wrong about one thing: They did tell me that it would be too painful for me to ever ski again. But today, the skiing doesn't really bother me. The falling does. Or not even the falling, but the hitting."

Yes, just a few months ago, Grier strapped on a pair of skis for the first time since the accident, and went "telemark skiing," which is downhill skiing on cross-country skis. And he did it even though "most people think it's pretty crazy to try even when you're healthy."

But Grier didn't climb back into the saddle without a problem. During that first skiing comeback, a snowboarder plowed into Grier and broke one of Grier's ribs.

"I didn't even see him coming," Grier said. "I saw him out of the corner of my eye and that was it. I laughed because it was my feeling that I had already broken enough bones. I really didn't need to break another one."

That didn't slow him down, though. Grier also ran his first 10K race last month. "That was a real accomplishment for me," he said.

Grier decided to become an attorney, he said, during his lengthy stay in bed following his near-death experience.

"The accident did make my attorneys quite a bit of money, so I thought, 'That seems like pretty easy work for that kind of money," he said. "I was in bed for several months. Down a lot. I went through six different surgeries. The days were very, very long. I started to find that the highlight of my day was watching 'Rosie O'Donnell' at 10 o'clock, and I realized then that something had to change."

Because Grier wasn't sure if he was going to be able to continue running the touring center, "I decided I needed something to at least make me feel like I was doing something rather than waiting for soap operas to come on. So I started studying for the Law School Admittance Test, without any long-range goal that I was going to go into law school.

"But I did well on the test, so I thought I'd just put in some applications to some law schools and see if any of them were crazy enough to accept me. I got accepted to five different law schools, including U of A and ASU ... and then suddenly I found myself sitting in my first law school class at ASU."

Before Grier completed law school, he discovered his legal niche: prosecuting attorney. "I felt at home as a trial attorney," he said. "I liked the courtroom and thought it was something I could do well."

Not long after Grier passed his final bar exams this summer, he landed his first job: a deputy prosecuting attorney with the Gila County Attorney's Payson office.

"I like the job, and it's a great opportunity to be working in a small town," he said. "In Payson, I get more opportunity to be in the courtroom than if I was one of the 365 prosecutors in Maricopa County."

Grier credits his accident with putting him where he is today.

"Otherwise, nobody in their right mind ends up in law school," he said. "And most everybody in law school would agree with that."

Is there anything else you should know about Tim Grier's story?

Just one thing.

In June of 1996, one year after saving the lives of those children, he received an award for heroism from Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman in a ceremony in Washington.

Grier doesn't mention that. But we will.

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