LISBON, N.D. (KVLY) Sunday marks the two-week anniversary of the death of a 19-year-old Lisbon girl, after she crashed her dirt bike in McKenzie County over the Labor Day holiday.
Cora Wagner was pronounced dead on the scene, about 17 miles east of Trotters. Her parents say it was a freak accident as Cora was wearing a helmet, without drugs or alcohol in her system.
"Even though her life was short, she was in her favorite place on the planet, surrounded my her favorite friends, her dad was holding her hand, her sister was with her, her boyfriend was holding her other hand. It's not that death can be beautiful, but if it ever could be, I don't know how there could be any kinder of a way to go," Dan Wagner, Cora's dad said.
It's a trip that's made every year. A trip Cora counted down to until she was back on the ranch in western North Dakota
"Cora referred to that as her God place," Wagner said.
September first marked the group's second day in paradise. Wagner says just the night before, Cora was spending 'girl time' with her sister, Ella, and a few others.
"Cora had told them that she's the happiest she's been in her life. She's just so happy, everything was so perfect. Storybook kinda life," Wagner said.
After Sunday church and breakfast, Wagner said Cora and her friends went to get some dirt biking in that afternoon.
But the bliss didn't last long—Wagner remembering the look on everyone's face as they rushed him to the scene.
"'God, please let this be okay. Please let this be okay. This cannot be real. This just cannot be real,'" Wagner remembers thinking.
Wagner says with little to no cell service, some broke off to climb a butte to call 911 and another started CPR.
Meanwhile, he says the rest gathered around Cora and started to pray.
"Everyone was cheering for her like it was a volleyball game. 'Come on, Cora. Come on, Cora! You can do it. Stick with us!'" Wagner said.
Emergency crews told callers they wouldn't be able to get a helicopter to the remote ranch for almost an hour.
"46 minutes. I felt like my whole being just escaped through my feet. The emptiness was so real," Wagner said.
Officials pronounced Cora dead at the scene, but soon after and without any rain, a full double rainbow emerged at the foot of Cora's body.
"I really believe that my faith could have been lost in that moment, because I felt so empty and so alone that words cannot even describe. It was just like someone ripped my soul out of my body. And then you turn around and you got this big, beautiful double rainbow. I mean, how do you sort that out spiritually?" Wagner said.
As Wagner reflected back on his daughter, he did so from a chair in the dining room, next to a large window. Wagner says it was Cora's favorite spot in the house, and where she started most of her mornings.
"She'd have a bowl of cereal and just look out at the barn," Wagner said. He jokes it's quickly became his favorite place now, too.
"She's gonna be part of our lives, forever. I have no desire to forget one second I ever lived with Cora. I don't want to forget anything. I would re-live it all," he said.
Wagner says he hopes to continue to keep Cora's vibrant light alive—Aiming to start a foundation to help the many places, activities and animals she loved so dearly.
"You know where some kids might go out, and for lack of a better term, get a six-pack of beer or something, she's like, 'I'll just saddle up the horse and I'll go out in the country. I'll look at the sky and see if I can see an coyotes running around or whatever!' She had a true sense of adventure," Wagner said.
Cora was only in her first week of college at NDSU when she died, but Wagner says she seemed to have already made herself at home with many new friends.
He says he hopes others, whether they knew Cora or not, will take a page out of her book of life.
"There was something so calming about the presence of Cora. You could be stressed out, have the worst day on the planet, whatever. You walk in see her, you say something and she'd say, 'Don't talk like that!' And she'd shut you right down. She's like, 'So what was good today?'" Wagner said.
He says changing to be more like Cora is something he has already started doing himself—Leading a life of unwavering faith, kindness and joy.
"I just want to lay all the garbage where it belongs and get rid of it. Just start over and look at the world like she looked at the world," Wagner said.