While taking a vacation in Boise, Idaho, La Jolla residents Kelly and Jesse Cottle took a quick family photo in the Boise River. Little did they know it would quickly become a nationally noticed, viral photo.
The photo of Kelly carrying Jesse, is a double leg amputee who stepped on an undetected Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while serving in Afghanistan, went viral, quickly getting national attention and thousands of likes on social media. The couple was then featured on ABC News, E! News and Huffington Post, and in People magazine, among others.
“The photographer wanted to take a few shots in the water, so we offered for Jesse to take his (prosthetics) off so we could all go in. My brother carried him down into the river, we took the pictures, and then as I was carrying Jesse back up to his legs, she took a couple shots of us,” Kelly Cottle told La Jolla Light. “It was totally unplanned.”
Kelly carrying Jesse is nothing out of the ordinary since his July 2009 injury. “Jesse and I have found over the years, that it is often easier for me to carry him when we are in hard to navigate situations,” Kelly said. “We started doing it at the beach, where it was easier for me to carry him down the sand and through the break. We do it so often, and hardly think anything of it anymore.”
Kelly added that the coastline of La Jolla is her favorite place to be and that she and her husband enjoy picnics on grassy areas next to cliffs and the walking paths along the beach.
Because their situation is now routine for the couple, they said they were surprised by the overwhelming reaction to their photo. “It has been very surreal and incredibly humbling,” Kelly said. “It is hard to believe that so many people would pay attention to a photo of us that was taken so sporadically, doing something that we often do.” She added that the national attention hasn’t even really sunk in yet.
“For so many people to take the time to comment and share their support and thanks is really a reflection of the makeup of this country,” she said. “There are a lot of ugly things going on in this world, but at the core, Americans are great people, and there is good and courage and heroism everywhere if we just take the time to look for it.”