Thursday, October 22, 2015


Survival Day 2015 - Ten Years

It's been ten years since the car accident that changed my life.  Over the course of that ten years I've preferred to honor this day by staying home in seclusion.  Partly out of a desire for it to be a normal day, but the reality is that it is anything but normal.  It's a date that marks the beginning of a six week nap followed by a roller coaster ride of a journey that has led me to where I am today.  And I am thrilled with my life and filled with hope when I think on the future!

This year, instead of secluding myself, I spent the majority of the day with over nine hundred burn survivors.  Though it was a struggle to relinquish my desire for seclusion, this was a population of people that I am thrilled to spend this day with.  I find it significant that the tenth anniversary also falls on the first full day of the World Burn Congress, which is being hosted in the hotel that I helped open almost fifteen years ago.  It's surreal to be there as a guest.  I find old memories flooding back every time I turn a corner.  I spent five years of my life in those halls and left for a better career opportunity.  Less than six months later a sixteen year old driver, who'd only been licensed to drive for twenty days, struck the passenger side of my car and forced me off the road into a utility pole.  The damage and position of the wreckage left me pinned in my brand new jeep wrangler, which then caught fire due to a dangerously defective design.

Over the years I have told the tale of the heroic strangers who risked their lives to fight the fire and free me from the wreckage.  I've told the tale of the mysterious person who emerged from the corn field, fought the fire, and disappeared moments after aiding in my rescue.  I've even spoken of the doctors, nurses, therapists, and other medical staff who kept me alive and brought me back to the world.  Rarely have I spoken of the other burn survivors from that night.  The heroic efforts of my family who held it together with the support of friends, neighbors, coworkers, ministers, congregation members, bosses both current and past...the list goes on and on.

Yes, I bear the physical remnants of the fire, but my sister, mom, dad, niece, cousins, and friends all waited for six weeks not knowing if I would be there the next day...then they had to deal with me when I was.  They supported one another each step of the way.  Those closest to me were burned in a deeply emotional way that can't be seen at first glance, but its there, on the inside.  Each has there own story to tell of the days that come after tonight.  Each of them is experiencing their own anniversary of the event that altered all of our lives...some more so than others, but the degree matters not.  Today, as I immersed myself in a community of burn survivors I found myself thinking of them, and how this is their survival day too.  To all of you I say, Thank You!            

Jeremy, I heard you speak when I worked at Broad Ripple High School, one of the first times you spoke to students about what had happened to you and shared what they could do to prevent accidents like the one that befell you. Following your life on Facebook and knowing your family and the courage you have all shown has been absolutely inspirational. Thanks for sharing today's joy on the anniversary of yesterday's tragedy.

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