When a local mom read her daughter's name in a Christmas Day news story, she believes it was a gift sent from heaven.
"When I read the Daily Press article about Melissa Fairchild and her wonderful cross country accomplishments, I saw my daughter's name and I knew it was a Christmas present from my daughter," said Sandy Sydner, whose daughter, Nicole Robbins, died while attending Hesperia High School.
In 1989, Robbins was killed instantly when a construction truck slammed into her Subaru Justy near Bear Valley Road and Peach Avenue, close to the entrance to Spring Valley Lake.
"I saw her name and I went numb," said Sydner, 62, who lives in Apple Valley. "Then it was all tears of joy from there. It was like a message from Nicole telling me that she's still out there."
Robbins was on the HHS cross country team when she ran the fastest time ever recorded by a San Bernardino County runner at Woodward Park in Fresno with a time of 17:29 in 1987. Fairchild, who runs for Serrano High School, broke the school record with a time of 17:36, the second fastest in county history.
Robbins was an All-American Cross Country runner and was 17th in the nation at the Kinney Nationals in 1987. The first Hesperia Recreation and Park District memorial tree was purchased and planted in her honor.
"Cal Camara helped us to establish that first grove of trees at Hesperia Lake," Sydner said. "The trees are between the park and soccer field, right where she ran her first race when she was 11 years old."
Sydner said her daughter's memory was fueled again two weeks later after she read news stories about memorials taken from a local gravesite and the death of former Hesperia Mayor Bruce Kitchen.
"After Nicole died, thieves stole a special brass urn that I had engraved and placed at her grave," Sydner said. "The story of the missing crosses brought back so many memories."
During Robbins' senior year, Sydner said her daughter was taken under Kitchen's wing during an internship with the City of Hesperia.
Sydner said she also came across a cassette that included an interview with Kitchen and daughter.
"She learned so much from Bruce," Sydner said. "Nicole thought that she would be in the way, but Bruce made her feel right at home and she was so impressed by his leadership style."
Sydner said her daughter grew fond of running as a young child. Robbins would run alongside her mother who worked to strengthen her stamina for racing motorcycles.
By the time Robbins was in high school, her running physique had the "coaches drooling," and soon Robbins and her teammates were CIF champs, Sydner said
"After all these years, this memory vortex of Nicole pops up out of nowhere," Sydner said. "People call me 'crazy,' but all these events are part of my recovery, my healing and my therapy. I don't believe in coincidences."