Everyone has heard horror stories about meeting strangers online. You never know who you're really letting into your life.
"No parent wants their child to meet someone that way," said Laurel Strand of Richland. "My gosh, they could be an ax murderer."
But you'll never convince her daughter and son-in-law, Amy and Ian Sharman, that there's any danger. They met and fell in love through the internet even though she was living in Bend, Ore., and he was across the Atlantic Ocean in London.
"Yes, being 5,000 miles apart was an obstacle, but if they're the right person, no distance, no amount of time is too great," Amy said.
Amy, a former Richland resident, and Ian met in 2006 via MySpace. She was recuperating from a horrific car accident that almost killed her and was confined to bed for months as her body healed from a shattered pelvis, a broken neck, collarbone and left arm.
Amy, then a reporter for NewsChannel 21 in Bend, worked a night shift April 7, 2006, and began to Seattle to visit friends.
"I was young. I thought I was invincible."
But within an hour, she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. She was airlifted to the Oregon Health and Sciences University hospital in Portland. She doesn't remember the accident, but she recalls hearing her neurosurgeon say her survival "was a miracle."
Amy spent about a week in the hospital as her bones were repaired with bolts and metal rods, and a rigid halo was screwed to her skull to stabilize her neck while it healed. She was moved to Richland, where she stayed with her mother while recuperating, something that took almost four months.
"Being cooped up in the house, I was feeling a bit claustrophobic, so decided I'd see if I could find someone, guy or girl, to chat with from England," she said. "My sister and I had been watching Pride & Prejudice, and who wouldn't want to meet a Mr. Darcy?"
She headed to MySpace, and one of the first profiles to pop up was Ian Sharman's.
"He sounded interesting," she said. "He'd backpacked all over the world and enjoyed running marathons on mountain trails. I thought he'd have some good stories to entertain me. I never thought it would go any further than that."
Instead, the two began emailing a dozen times a day, instant messaging and talking face-to-face via Skype.
"This was very out of character for her," her mother said. "She doesn't generally go around talking to strangers unless it's her job as a TV reporter. But after the accident, it's like she thought, 'OK, it's time to do something different here.' "
In August 2006, after Amy returned to Bend, Ian boarded a plane, and they met in person.
"It was like we'd always known each other. We knew we had something special between us," Amy said.
For three years, the two took turns flying every few months to each other's hometown. In September 2009, Ian was fed up with having a long-distance relationship, so he quit his job and moved to Bend.
"Ian always wanted to live in another country, and he fell in love with the Pacific Northwest -- and me," Amy said.
Yet the only job Ian could find in his field, economics, was in California, and Amy still was under contract with NewsChannel 21.
"But after three years, for us to be together on the same continent was fabulous," Amy said.
Soon, Amy joined Ian in California, and on Aug. 10, 2010, they married in Lake Tahoe. But the couple missed the Northwest. They're back in Bend, where Amy runs a wedding planning business, and Ian is an online running coach.
"We followed our dreams. That's one thing my accident taught me: Don't wait -- take risks because something amazing could come of it. I'm using my skills as a television reporter to help couples tell their stories, and Ian has always loved the outdoors and running," she said.
"Taking a risk, making such a huge lifestyle change to quit my job and move to Bend was scary at the time. Now I can't imagine my life any other way now. If you don't take risks you don't get the rewards. I'd rather have regrets for something I did do, than for something I did not do."