Ten years ago next Wednesday, I almost lost my daughter.
I was in my Kansas City hotel room when I received the call about 6:45 p.m. from my wife Carolyn. Speaking with panicky, short breaths, she told me Noelle (college sophomore at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches) had been struck by an out-of-control pickup as she walked up a campus sidewalk after band practice.
The driver of the truck, Chris, a senior at SFA, was careening down College Avenue glancing off cars, and with brakes failing, suddenly veered right, jumped the curb and hit my daughter.
Within a split second he’d also knocked down a 40 ft. light pole and came to a smashing halt on a grassy embankment.
Neither Chris, his passenger, nor any other pedestrians were injured. Further details were sketchy, but Carolyn would be calling me back as soon as she heard more from the SFA band director.
I felt like I’d been been kicked in the stomach, and for about 20 minutes, life itself was put on hold.
I wondered if this was all just a bad, bad dream. Did I really hear what I think I just heard? I fell on my knees praying, crying and pleading with God to spare my daughter.
Instinctively, I called a few close friends and solicited their prayers. I was praying on the phone with Bobby when my wife called back with good news.
Noelle suffered a dislocated hip, torn ligaments in her left knee and significant abrasions and contusions to her torso, limbs and scalp. The injures were not life-threatening.
I wept with gratitude and thanksgiving to my Creator – the Giver of life itself. The good Lord had provided a guardian angel that day --- fellow band mate Freddie Lopez.
Walking alongside her, he had looked up and saw the pickup barreling its way toward them. He had the presence of mind to yank her to his left and out of the path of the pickup.
Instead of being flat run over, she was sideswiped. How I thank God for Freddie! Though it took months for Noelle to recover physically (ACL surgery on the knee, etc.), emotionally and psychologically it took quite a bit longer.
But spiritually the impact was immediate. Perspectives on life and what’s really important were changed in an instant for the Norman family.
I remember writing out the check for her surgery and thinking whatever amount - $1,000 or $10,000 or all the money I had - it mattered not.
As time passed and healing took place, Noelle did wonder more about the accident and knew Chris had the answers.
She also thought if she could somehow meet him, she’d like to tell him all was okay and there was good that came from the accident. Upon graduation in May 2011 she got up the nerve to go over to where Chris supposedly lived only to find out he’d moved to Wisconsin two years earlier.
In the fall of 2012 Carolyn and I went down to Nacogdoches to be with Noelle (she was still working in the area) and watch her fiance’ play in the annual SFA Alumni Rugby Match.
During the game Noelle happened to notice a guy in the crowd who looked just like Chris (she’d seen Facebook photos). It was him. Noelle was brave that day. With a prayer on her lips and forgiveness in her heart, she reached out to the guy who almost took her life. They talked for about 20 minutes. She asked questions she’d had since that fateful day.
But even more importantly she told Chris how her life had been changed for the good because of the accident, how she is now more committed to the Lord than ever before, how she now appreciates each day we are given and that she forgave him.
This divine appointment in time with Chris provided a sense of closure in this chapter of her life. On Aug. 23 we’ll again celebrate Noelle’s “Deliverance Day” and remember the time-tested adage: Yesterday is history/Tomorrow is a mystery/Today is a gift/That’s why it’s called “the present.“
P.S. Who could ever have imagined that exactly 10 years to the day of the accident, my Noelle would be hiking the Appalachian Trail with her husband of four years? Only He could.
Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.