During a four-month span in 1994, Jana Huston experienced incomprehensible tragedy and unprecedented success.
Two years later the Northwest Christian School senior is facing her future with incredible maturity.
Huston’s father, Lt. Col. Kenneth Huston, was navigator on the B-52 that crashed on June 24, 1994, killing all three crewmen aboard.
In November of that year, she was a member of the Crusader volleyball team that became the school’s first girls state tournament qualifier and placer.
Today, this remarkable young woman and her family are getting their world back on track.
“I’m so happy being able to see her laugh,” said Crusaders coach Katie Damon. “Joy has come back to her life.”
Damon recalled how Jana held herself together that fall after the accident.
“Trying to be strong for her brothers and sisters, she would go into the garage where she could be alone and cry,” Damon said.
This year Huston is the remaining link to that 1994 NWC team that finished seventh at state. She is, said Damon, someone her younger teammates rally around.
“Even as a sophomore at state she was an integral part of that team,” she said.
The 6-foot middle blocker stuffed 18 opposition hits at the net against a Bi-County League foe, helping the team qualify to the Class B tourney where it won three straight times.
“She’s one of those players that the greater the competition the better she plays,” said Damon.
It all happened less than four months after the tragic accident that killed her father.
“It was hard,” Huston said. “He didn’t get to see me succeed. I questioned why. Just when I got to do good he was gone.”
The family learned of the accident, she said, from her best friend and teammate, McCall Stover, who saw the news on television.
Jana was home with her mother, Elisabeth, and older sister, Carrie. Younger brother Jeff, now 14, was at the movies and sister Nikki, now 12, was visiting friends.
At the time of the crash, the family was scheduled for transfer to Washington, D.C. The day of the crash was to have been Ken’s day off. Because the scheduled navigator didn’t want to fly, he went instead.
As they watched the graphic tape footage, it was like sitting in a dark hole as they wondered, “is this happening to us?” Jana recalled. “Maybe not. The air base didn’t call until hours later.”
Since then the religious family has come to accept it as God’s will and has moved past the tragedy.
“People who go through the most trials are people who are strong,” Jana said. “We are closer as a family and know how valuable each of us is.”
The Huston family stayed in Spokane. Elisabeth teaches at Northwest Christian.
This year, the volleyball team won its third straight Panorama League title and Jana has been a part of all three.
She has played sports since fifth grade.
“I was always taller than the boys,” she said.
But it wasn’t until attending a volleyball camp last summer at Spokane Falls Community College that she began to fully realize her volleyball potential.
Coaches Irene Matlock of SFCC and Pam Parks of EWU asked her to try out for their club team which qualified for nationals. Included were players from several Greater Spokane League schools.
“It was a very good experience,” Huston said. “Everyone there was so good I didn’t play a lot until nationals. I felt stupid at first and then got into the pattern.”
At nationals, Huston said she did things she didn’t know she could. She realized that her future awaits at the same time the memory of her father’s death eases.
“I know my dad’s there in a sense,” said Huston, “But you can’t think about it the rest of your life. You can’t change the past.”
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