Five years after plane crash, a family retraces their son’s steps in Minnesota

Firefighters work to get the flames under control after a small plane crashed into a home at 731 Garden Place in Sauk Rapids, Minn., June 20, 2014. Jason Wachter | St. Cloud Times, via AP

It was five years ago when Alexander Voigt’s adventure to Minnesota as a German exchange student ended when the plane in which he was a passenger crashed into a house in Sauk Rapids, Minn.

Last week, his family made another pilgrimage to the state, to try to retrace the last month of Alexander’s life, the St. Cloud Times reports.

They were sitting in a booth at Grandma’s looking at photos Alexander took during a visit to Duluth with St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis when they realized they were sitting in the same booth. Alexander was living with Kleis and his family.

“I get comforted by that,” Jutta, his mom, said. “He’s closer. We looked at things through his eyes and tried to experience the same experience.”

When Alexander died, it had been almost a year since his family had seen him.

Alex’s family was determined to use their grief for good. The year following his death, they created the Alexander Voigt Memorial Scholarship through Youth For Understanding.

“The tragic loss didn’t change their love for the exchange program and the connections they create,” Kleis said.

Youth For Understanding is a high school exchange program that has been around since the end of World War II. Alex’s family funds the scholarship, which offers the opportunity for a high school student, preferably from St. Cloud, to spend a year as an exchange student in Germany.

The recipients are placed with host families chosen by the organization. But Alex’s family always invites the scholarship recipient to visit them in Munich for a weekend.

This fall, the fourth scholarship student will visit Germany by way of the Alexander Voigt Memorial Scholarship, “which is a beautiful thing,” Jutta said.

The Kleis family has hosted another student since Alexander’s death. He says it was hard, but it’s what Alexander would’ve wanted.