She remembers tucking her head between her knees as the plane barreled toward the ground, scrambling out of the fiery wreckage and then rolling to put out the flames. Stephanie Nielson's first thoughts were of her four children, waiting at home for their traditional Saturday night pizza. Then, she wondered what she looked like. "When I reached up to feel my face, I couldn't quite make out what I was feeling," Nielson told an overflowing audience in the Wilkinson Student Center on Thursday night. She was the kickoff speaker for the "Recapturing Beauty" campaign. With burns on more than 84 percent of her body, Nielson spent the next three months in a coma at the Maricopa Medical Center Burn Unit in Phoenix, fighting to stay alive. When she awoke, it took her another two months before she was ready to look at herself in the mirror. "I knew that I was burned, and I knew I had scars on my face, but nothing could have prepared me for what I would see," she said. "My thoughts after looking at myself went straight to my children — 'How are the children going to see me when I can't even recognize my own face?' " The Aug. 16, 2008, crash — which also injured her husband, Christian, and killed their friend Doug Kinneard — left Nielson with a different nose, protruding lips and a body and face covered in scars and scabs. She was embarrassed to have visitors and felt inadequate as a mother, woman and a human being. But as she looked closer, she began to see beyond her injuries.
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