At 41, a man can expect a few lines in the face. But Johnny Holliday's are from laughing.
Hear him clown on his morning radio show. See him cavort on the dinner theater stage. Listen to him talk about becoming a father again in three weeks. Watch him lead his beloved Oneders basketball team out to do battle.
Johnny Holliday is oh-so-obviously celebrating. He is ahead of the game. He is alive.
And he has carefully considered the alternative.
Four years ago this week, Holliday survived a plane crash. About 6,000 other Americans have done so, and like many of them, Holliday had a call so close that he is "double timing" now -- packing the hours, doing as much as he can -- all because he is glad he is still with us.
"All I can figure is that the Lord decided it wasn't my time yet," says Holliday, the wake-up jock on WJMD-FM. "I don't know what He had in mind for me, but it must have been something. I'm doing as much as I can to find out what it is."
Holliday's accident happened in Clinton, Md., on a clear but very windy night, the kind of gusty weather pilots know and dread.
About two weeks earlier, Holliday had read in the newspapers about an impoverished, lonely lady who lived in Nelson County, Va. Touched, he talked up her plight on his radio show. Listeners responded with about 350 pounds of food and clothing. Holliday decided to fly it to the lady in person, and he brought along his 11-year-old daughter Tracy.
About 9 that night, with Johnny Holliday in the front passenger seat and Tracy in the back, the pilot was attempting to land his four-seater plane at Hyde Field in Clinton in wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour.
"I remember us clearing some hightension lines and coming in for a landing," said Holliday. "We were pitching from side to side like mad. The pilot couldn't quite get the plane down, so he said, 'I think I'll take it around again.' And that's the last thing I remember."
What Holliday missed was the left wing of the plane bashing against the runway, and bending straight up, useless. The plane, narrowly missing a hangar, smashed into the ground at the end of the runway.
Holliday broke his nose, ruptured his spleen and sustained other internal injuries. He underwent emergency surgery and spent a month in the hospital. Although the plane was destroyed, neither of the other passengers was seriously injured.
Johnny Holliday had never had surgery before. He hadn't even set foot in a hospital since Tracy had been born. He describes himself as the kind of guy who would nod solemnly as the doctor preached green vegetables -- and who would ignore the advice as soon as he was out of the office.
"But after the accident, I had to confront the idea of death," Holliday said. "It was the emotional side that was the toughest. I cried almost every day, and, hey, I don't cry much.
"I got thousands of cards and letters, and a lot of them made me think. I mean, there you are, lying in this greem room, and you start reading all these cards and people are saying perpetual prayers on your behalf. You begin to wonder. And you really wonder when priests pop in to say hello."
The natural fear of death mixed in Holliday's mind with anxiety about Tracy. She refused to visit her father in the hospital and still won't discuss the accident.
Holliday takes comfort in the fact that Tracy was not injured ("If she'd been riding where I was, I think she would have been killed"). But he feels "a parent's guilt" about the psychological changes Tracy, now 15, must have undergone.
Holliday has undergone quite a few himself.
"The initial feeling after you come through something like this is that you'll never do anything wrong again. You'll kiss your wife and give to the poor. Your church attendance will go up 700 percent. You know, that kind of thing.
"But that wears off after a while. What remains is that a lot of things have been more important to me from that point on. My wife, my kids, my job, my friends. I think I value them more. I think I take the time to think about them now.
"It's like, I used to be terrible around the studio. I'd see a guy goofing off, I'd get furious. I thought everybody ought to work as hard as I do. Now I don't feel that way any more. I guess you could say I found some peace from this."
As a plane crash survivor, Holliday considers himself massively lucky that he has no limits. "I had lots of fears about not being able to do things, but that never happened," he says. His nose still shows signs of being rebuilt, "but the original wasn't that great in the first place."
Holliday says he often shies from discussing his crash because he is past wanting or needing sympathy. But he never ducks other survivors. Although he has never done so, Holliday said he may help to establish a program for crash survivors to get together and offer each other emotional support.
Holliday has flown on commercial planes many times since his crash, without so much as a close call. He admits to some shakiness at times, "but what can I do? You've got to fly in today's world."
But not in a private plane. That, says Johnny Holliday, "is one thing I will never do again. I used to say, 'Plane crashes happen to somebody else.' But now I know a whole lot better."