LOS ANGELES — – It was one of those private pacts a daughter makes with her dad. The one who died first would send a signal to the other that all was well in the hereafter.
Two days after her mother and father plunged to their deaths on Alaska Airlines Flight 261, Tracy Knizek believes she got that message.
A commercial fisherman who helped scoop debris from the crash site found the red-and-gold Mason's ring worn by her father, Bob Williams.
Until she was told of the ring's recovery, the Suquamish, Wash., woman had struggled to accept her parents' deaths.
"Maybe this is God's way of telling us that this is really happening and that everything is going to be OK, and that hopefully I'll hear from him again," she said Thursday in a telephone interview from her parents' home in neighboring Poulsbo.
It was only a year ago, after her grandfather died, that she reminded her father of an agreement they made years earlier.
"Ever since I was a little girl, my dad and I had a deal. Whoever died first, the other one would come back and tell them what it's like," she said. "It was just to let the other person know if it's OK, like we think it's going to be."
That the ring was recovered at all seems as miraculous as the crash was tragic.
Oxnard fisherman Scott Jarvis' boat Meridian was part of a flotilla of commercial fishing boats that helped illuminate the crash scene Monday night while rescuers searched for survivors.
Jarvis, 37, and his nephew, 21-year-old Kevin Marquiss, pulled enough seat cushions, insulation and other debris from the water to cover the back deck of the 32-foot boat.
Later, as they cleaned jet fuel off the decks, they discovered the ring nestled in a deck hatch. Studded with three ruby-colored jewels, it had a large capital "G" in the center — that Jarvis later learned stood for "Grand Master Mason."
"It's like he sent it from heaven and just set it on the boat," Jarvis said.
Bob Williams, 65, and his wife, Patty, 63, were returning home to the Puget Sound after spending two weeks in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with friends Robert and Lorna Thorgrimson, who also died aboard Flight 261.
The couple traveled often after Williams retired as an Air Force colonel 20 years ago, visiting Panama and cruising to Alaska in the past year, Knizek said.
Knizek, 39, had always been close to her parents. After living away from home for several years, she moved into a second house on their nine-acre property five years ago. Although the homes are separated only by a small woods, a quirk of geography placed them in different towns.
Just last year, her father carved a one-acre horse pasture out of the property. In the years ahead, they planned to fence it and build a barn, eventually buying horses for Knizek and her two children.
"They were my best friends in the whole world," she said of her parents.
She never told anyone of her agreement with her dad. But as she spoke to Jarvis, who contacted the Poulsbo Mason's Lodge after finding the ring, the story poured out.
"When that ring came around, I thought, 'Wow.' It's just to tell us, 'This is really happening, Tracy, this is real, and you're going to be OK and your brothers are going to be OK."'
The ring remains with Jarvis, who will hold onto it until the families can arrange a meeting. In a letter to be opened upon his death, Bob Williams left the ring to the oldest of his two sons, Greg.
Knizek, her voice trailing, said she was to receive a ring her father had specially made for her mom several years ago: "So if anybody finds a diamond ring on the beach ..."