Black Friday, one year later

While savings-minded shoppers gets ready for Black Friday deals this year, my brain replays a horrendous day one year ago.

One year ago, I was driving to the worst career-move I had ever made (The Waldron News fired me, as you'll recall, for being a real journalist). It was an early Friday morning, and work seemed like it would be a rather quiet kind of day. I was wondering what my front page story would be for next week's newspaper, and had it in my mind that our front page would probably be devoted to Black Friday sales reports from local businesses.

However, not more than a few minutes after leaving my home, I drove past Hell on Highway 71.

Two cars had collided, one apparently drifting into the other lane, sending a grey car crashing into a white fence about 20 feet off of the road down a hill. The family in unoffending car was fine. The two in the car that drifted...not so much.

They weren't well at all.

And since I decided to major in something that, by and large, doesn't save lives, I ran to grab my camera after seeing that a trained nurse was on the scene helping until paramedics arrived. There was something very heroic about what she did: seeing her barking out orders and giving every ounce of 20 years of medical experience to save that girl's life.

"Stay with us!" she said to her.

Eventually, other women with medical training stopped and started helping the male passenger. After they attended to him, they had to switch back to her, and said that someone needed to keep him company, keep his mind busy so he didn't go into shock or something.

Walking over to him, I had no idea what to say. I think my first words might have been, "How's your day going?" He was frantically repenting of everything, saying how sorry he was, letting me know that he had fallen asleep. He told me his name was Justin, and that the girl with him was named Stephanie, and they were going to get married. Justin was begging and pleading for her life, apologizing every chance he got.

He truly loved her. I know it'cheesy sounding, and I know that people say crazy stuff in the worst of times, but I've never seen someone that madly in love before. I've been to weddings, I've seen anniversary celebrations. I've seen the look of joy on someone's face after proposing. But aside from a certain man hanging on a cross 2,000 years ago, Justin loved Stephanie more than anyone has ever loved anyone.

I don't remember the rest of my words, other than the fact that I told him I'd be praying for them both, and that the rest of them probably weren't very good. But I told him that he would indeed marry that girl, that she and him were going to make it.

I might have told him that, but I'm glad he didn't notice the uncertainty in my voice. Common sense said that she would die on the way to the hospital: her injuries were that bad. She was literally a broken woman, being thrown from that car Black Friday morning. Standing next to one of the nurses as Stephanie was being airlifted, one of the nurses sadly but matter-of-factly told me that she wasn't going to make it.

"That's the worst wreck I've ever seen," said a woman with more than 20 years of hospital experience.

I went to work thinking about them. In the next few days, however, I found out that she was alive. First in critical condition, then going to stable. Life had a chance after-all.

Some time later, I was contacted by one of Stephanie's relatives via Facebook. I was told that Stephanie and Justin had gotten married. Even sent a picture of the two of them on their Wedding day to me (my only regret in quitting Facebook was that I lost that photo). Few things in life have brought me as much joy as seeing that photo, and while it was a poor career move to take the Waldron News position, this series of events made it worth it.

And now, Stephanie and Justin have almost fully recovered. Justin says the only lingering effect from the crash is Stephanie not being able to roll her foot, but that was it.

I wish I had gotten to meet Justin and Stephanie before I moved away from Arkansas. I have no doubt seeing those two together would further affirm God's greatness. He truly is amazing, taking what should have been a fatal car accident and turning it into a marriage between two people who have the rest of their lives together to thank God for that Black Friday miracle.

This Black Friday, Justin told me over the phone that the family is getting together to celebrate life on the day that Stephanie almost died. Who knew, that on a day devoted to saving money on Xmas gifts, I'd be able to see the greatest saving of all?

Note: You can follow Justin and Stephanie on Twitter, with Justin being twitter.com/wikorhero and Steph being twitter.com/dow_steph. Also, the photo you see in this story has an interesting side-tale. Apparently my bosses HATED that photo running on the front page of the Waldron News. Said it was too gruesome, but I chose that photo because it precisely illustrates just how bad that wreck was. A people-less photo with a banged up car might be less horrifying, but would not have nearly as much impact. The WN was notorious for running wreck photos with just the vehicle before I got there. I thought this one was a nice change of pace.

I would have gotten in trouble big time for using that photo, had I not shown the bosses an email from the family of the Justin and Stephanie saying how much they enjoyed the article (oh yeah, got in trouble for a personal column about the wreck in which I stated that I wish I had said a rosary) and photo.

Some people just don't get it.


Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble November 26, 2010 at 12:48 AM  

Oh my gosh. That is an amazing story. Praise God for such a great outcome!!

Brooke Johnson November 26, 2010 at 2:04 AM  

Thanks for posting this. Justin and Stephanie are two of my very best friends. That was probably one of the scariest days of my life, being so far away from them, unable to see them, talk to them, or help them. I'm a sap, so this made me cry... but it truly meant a lot abo7t what you said about Justin's love for Steph. Nothing like it.

Angela November 26, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

Wow, Dustin. That was so powerful. Thanks for sharing (and redeeming Black Friday for me).

Linda Dow November 26, 2010 at 3:04 PM  

Justin and Stephanie are my son and daughter-in-law, and we are so touched by your words just as we were so touched by your articles then. Black Friday has a new meaning for us. Today we celebrate God's amazing miracles, and give thanks for those who have touched and impacted our lives. Thank you, Dustin, for your powerful words, and for the sacrifices it ultimately cost you. They were so glad to hear from you, and look forward to a face to face meeting in the future.

JB Hilliard November 30, 2010 at 8:04 AM  

What an amazing story!

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    A blog for the masses, if by masses you mean myself and family members who probably read this out of pity.

    I'm dustin Faber, the 16-bit Catholic. This blog is an amusing, sometimes thought-provoking look at my life and the world around me. Poetry, cooking recipes, gaming, faith, things that make me go awww, things that make me go grrr, and my obsession with a good glass of root beer can be found here.

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