It was a Monday. A Monday like any other Monday. Just another workday. I was racing around from place to place. I barely had time to talk to my daughter who was traveling back to Gainesville for college. When she called me she said she had called because she was “board.”
By late afternoon I was in the University of Miami law library sitting at a table. I had just begun to read a case about punitive damages. I liked being in the law library. I liked the books and the way they felt in your hand. I liked how quiet it was. I liked being anonymous – just thinking to myself. It made me feel like a lawyer.
As I was sitting at my table, I noticed one of the librarians walking around. The earpiece from her phone was dangling from her ear. She glanced around like she was looking for someone. Then she looked at me and her eyes sort of locked on me like she had found what she was looking for. After spotting her prey, she walked with purpose to my table and asked, “Are you David Durkee?”
After a brief pause due to my surprise, I said, “Yes.”
“You have a call.”
“It must be important.”
“Sounds like it might be.”
I was sort of shocked. No one had ever called the law library to track me down. This must be important. Thoughts raced through my head. Are we on a trial docket? Did we miss a deadline in one of my cases? Who spilled milk that I was now going to have to clean up? I was already getting mad just thinking about what I was about to hear.
Paloma, my assistant and one of my closest friends, said very directly, “David, Natasha has been in a car accident. It is serious and they are taking her to the hospital.”
Everything stopped. It was like I had tunnel vision. My heart stopped beating. I could not take a breath. Blood rushed to my head. My body felt warm, like a fever. I was about to go blank.
Instinct took over. I had a purpose. I needed to take action. I had to start to do something to save her. I had to go get her. My thoughts were spinning. The first question came to my lips, “Where?”
“Who told you?”
“What do we know?”
“She was involved in a serious car accident and she is being taken to a hospital. That is it.”
I hung up the phone. I wanted to fall out of my chair and cry. I knew she was driving an old convertible. I didn’t even know if the car had airbags. I knew because of the type of car she was driving that if it was a “serious car accident” my daughter was in trouble. When I finally heard the rest of the story I knew it was going to be bad. The librarian who had found me in the library saw my reaction to the news and looked concerned. She didn’t know what to say. Finally, she said to me, “Is everything all right?”
“My daughter was involved in a serious car accident and I have to leave.” Without waiting for her reaction, I walked to my area, grabbed my stuff and began walking out of the library and towards my car.
As I was walking towards my car, I began to inventory what was in front of me. Where was my phone? I had left it in the car. When I got my phone, who was I going to call first? Who was I going to call second? Did I need gas? What was the name of the hospital? What did I need for the trip? Who did I need to pick up? Who can help and how?
I decided I would call my wife, Sofie, first. I would gather what information I could from her and tell her I was leaving. I would call the office and tell them to gather a few things I needed from my office. I would go by the office and pick those things up and then pick up my wife. I would then call my Dad and tell him to get to Orlando. He could get there maybe an hour or hour and a half before me.
Just I as completed my “to do” list, I arrived at my car. I sat down. I began to understand the gravity of what lay ahead of me. Where was my daughter? What was she feeling? Was she still alive? How did the accident happen? Why did I buy her that convertible? Is she going to be all right? Tears began to well up in my eyes. I was on the verge of collapse. Again instinct kicked in. I had to get to my daughter. I had to somehow fix this. I wanted to pinch myself and wake up. Unfortunately, I was wide awake and this was actually happening. I began to drive.
I called Sofie, my wife. “What do we know?”
“A state trooper called. He said it was serious.” Her voice was cracking. I knew Sofie. She was very strong. She would not give up. She would not lose faith until reality made her. She had not completely lost it yet. “Are you leaving?”
“I am running by my office and then picking you up. I will be there in 15 minutes.” I do not think I even said goodbye.
I ran by the office. Paloma met me downstairs. When I saw her, she had that, “I can’t believe this is happening,” look. Funny, she looked so scared, I felt like I had to be the one to do the comforting.
“Don’t worry about the office. Call me when you know anything.”
I picked up my phone charger and a couple of other items and left.
I was at Sofie’s office in a second. She was waiting outside.
“I have the name of the hospital. I have directions. They said she rolled her car.”
We began to drive. I was driving like a maniac. Sofie raised her typical concerns about my driving.
“You are going to have an accident!”
“You are going to get a ticket!”
We both fell into a weird silence. Neither wanting to put our thoughts or fears into words. Somehow if we said these things out loud we would make all the bad things come true.
This new piece of information hit me like a lightning bolt. “She rolled her car.”
I had bought her a convertible. I had always wanted one. I always wanted to be the cool kid with a convertible. Driving to the beach with the wind in my hair. My daughter just wanted a car. She didn’t care about a convertible. She just wanted a car. In fact, ever since we bought the car, I had been bugging her, “When are you going to put the top down? It’s a convertible.” She would always laugh and say, “Dad it messes up my hair.” And that was that. Hair management trumped the benefits of a convertible. That was just a rule of science.
My mind analyzed this new piece of information, “She rolled her car.” My worst fears had been realized. I had worked helping families after accidents for the past 20 years. I knew what the aftermath of a serious car accident looked like. Mangled bones. Magled flesh. Mangled lives. I had seen that dead look parents get when they lose a child. I had seen the steep uphill battle a family faces when there were serious injuries. I had seen the lost dreams of a person who suffered a spine injury. I had seen it all. When I analyzed this piece of information, “She rolled her car,” I knew I would be lucky if she was alive with a mangled body. I had resigned myself to this. I prayed for this. If she ended up with a mangled body, it would mean that she ended up alive. I could not think about the other alternative that was just as likely.
Each time either my wife or I made a comment, it was something to the effect, “I wonder how she crashed?” “I wonder if there was another car involved.” “I hope she did not fall asleep.” We never really talked to each other about what damage may have been inflicted upon our little girl.
We made calls. I asked my mom and dad to drop everything and drive to Orlando. They had been vague as to whether they were going to do this. This got me mad but I had no time to waste being mad.
Just then Patrick, Natasha’s boyfriend, called me and told me that he had talked to Natasha after the accident. This was wonderful news. Finally, someone had actually talked to Natasha. A firsthand account of what the injuries may be. It was like the first drop of water for a man who had just walked out of the dessert. Patrick told me that Natasha said she was, “ok.” She told him that she was bleeding and her entire body hurt. But she said she was, “OK.”
Patrick also said that there was a doctor on the scene. This doctor had also said that she was doing, “ok.” I told Patrick to text me the number of the physician. I told Patrick that I would call him as soon as we got to Orlando and saw Natasha.
He then texted me the number for the doctor and I called the number. “Hello, doctor?”
“Hi this is David Durkee. I am the Dad of the girl that had an accident. I think you treated her at the scene of an accident.”
“Yes. I am very sorry about what you are going through.” His voice was soothing. Like someone that had comforted parents of a patient before. “She looked pretty good. She was talking at the scene. I checked her out, somewhat, neurologically and she seems intact. I listened to her lungs and they sounded good. She has a bad cut on her leg and she is going to need stitches there. She may have some broken bones. There maybe something going on internally I can’t be sure. But she was talking. She even told me that this was not supposed to happen. That she did not want me to call you because you were going to kill her. That she was supposed to be the Good Girl.”
I analyzed each word. Each and every single word. I dissected them in my mind. I weighed them. I listened to his tone. I listened for when he paused. I was trying to determine if he was painting a rosy picture for my behalf or was he telling me the truth. She rolled her convertible. How could she be talking about getting in trouble and being a good girl if she rolled her convertible. How could she be alive. This is all I kept thinking.
“I think she is going to be ok. I can’t be sure. But I think she is going to be ok.”
“Thank you doctor for stopping. Thank you for helping my little girl.” My eyes were again welling up with tears. “Thank you. Give me your name and I will call you back. I want to thank you. I will let you know how she does.”
“Please let me know. Call me later. My name is Dr. Oz.”
“Dr. Oz? Like the guy on TV?”
“No, I am the guy on TV.”
I paused for a moment. “really? Ok, well, again, thank you for helping Natasha.”
This was like some weird joke. My daughter had supposedly rolled a convertible off the turnpike and was “ok” and I was talking to Dr. Oz while racing to Orlando. I again felt like I had to pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t some weird nightmare.
I relayed the news to Sofie. She digested it silently. We both would not believe anything until we saw Natasha.
My cell phone rang. The word on the screen said, “Natasha.”
I answered, “Hello.”
I could not believe my ears. It was her. “How are you?””
“I told them you were going to be mad at me.”
“Tasha – how do you feel.”
“My head hurts. My wrist hurts. I am bleeding. I hurt all over.” She was talking with that serious tone. But there was also a tone of “I am ok.” Not alarmed. Not screaming in pain. There was sort of a calmness to her tone. "I wanted to call you to tell you I am ok.”
“It is so good to hear you. Are you OK? Are you OK?”
“My car is totaled. I rolled over. There was a guy who pulled me out.”
“We will be there soon. Don’t talk. We will be there soon.” I hung up.
The conversation was brief. I never even let Sofie talk to her. I did not want to jeopardize her condition. I knew about head injuries. They may not show up for 24 hours. An internal bleed can start slow and progressively get worse. I did not want her talking on the phone when she needed medical care. I regretted hanging up. Now I wished I had talked to her for hours. However, right now I needed to drive and get to the hospital.
Sofie fielded calls from this person or another. She was praying. Both by herself and with people on the phone. At that moment, I wish I had something that would comfort me. Sofie had her religion. Sofie had the power of prayer. Sofie had Jesus. All I could do was drive.
W received another call from Natasha’s phone. It was her cousin that lived in Orlando. He told us that he was in the emergency room with her. She looked pretty good. She was battered and bruised and they were taking her for tests. That was all he could tell us.
We arrived at the hospital. We parked. We got out of the car and began to walk towards the entrance of the emergency room. The entrance of an emergency room is not the most inviting place in the world. There are constant reminders that you are there because of an emergency. There were ambulances lined up outside with flashing lights. There is a giant neon sign outside again reminding you, “EMERGENCY.” There are fire rescue people and nurses walking around with purpose.
We walked in. There were families and friends in groups. Sort of like when a football team does a huddle. Each person in the emergency room has their little huddle in the waiting room. Natasha had her huddle. Natasha’s cousins and their friends had rushed to the hospital. They were what constituted Natasha’s huddle. We hugged. We made brief small talk. We said hello.
Sofe and I quickly made our way to the front desk. “We are here for Natasha Durkee.”
“OK – let me check.” The hospital staff is all business. They take the emotion out of it. It is probably a defense mechanism. They see so much pain and emotion each day – to a degree they have turned numb.
“She is on bed four. You can go in.”
We gingerly walked past the double doors that lead into the area where the beds were. Each bed contained a person who was experiencing some sort of emergency. They had machines attached to them. They had tubes sticking out of their arms. Things were beeping. The people around them had serious looks on their faces. They were drawn. Bags under their eyes. Faces unshaven. I knew I was going to look like that in a matter of hours. We walked past the three first beds before we arrived at bed four.
A little alarm bells went off when I did not see Natasha. Only her cousin, Jose, was sitting in a chair next to the bed. He looked calm. He seemed to have a smile on his face.
He said easily, “She looks good. They took her for some X-rays. They said the CT scan of her head was OK.”
“Where is she?”
“They said I couldn’t go with her.”
A nurse, a nice young woman with a pleasant caring look, looked at me and said, “She is going to be back soon.”
Just then, we saw her. She was trying to stand up with a pained look on her face. Her hair was matted with blood. She had skin that was kind of pinkish and bruised. The pink being caused by the remnants of blood that the nursing staff had tried to wash away. The blood would not leave easily.
I heard her voice “Can I go to the bathroom?”
As she rose from her wheelchair, she was being supported by a male nurse. She saw us. We all began to cry. We tried to hug. But her pain did not allow it. “I need to go to the bathroom.” She laughed a little. She smiled. The woman nurse and the male nurse helped her to the bathroom.
After she went to the bathroom, the two nurses helped her to get back in bed. We huddled around her like the other families in the other rooms that we had passed. I stroked her hair that was soaked in blood. It was so good to touch her.
A young physician’s assistant came in the room. He introduced himself and told us he was going to go over everything with us. He was not using that serious tone that one uses when you’re about to deliver bad news. He spoke easily. “She has four staples in the back of her head. She has stitches in several places. The CT scan of the head was normal but we have to watch her for head injury. So far we have not found any internal injuries. We are waiting on the results of the x-rays. Basically, she is a very lucky girl.” He smiled. I peppered him with questions. Sofie joined in. He answered everything to our satisfaction. For the first time since I picked up the phone in the University of Miami Law Library, I thought maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be all right.
I sat back and began to think. How was this possible? I looked at my daughter. I saw how she was still such a little girl. How she still had so much life to live. How much I loved her. I kept thinking back to those words, “She rolled her car.” How do you roll a convertible doing 70 to 75 miles per hour and not be injured. How was this possible?
I looked at Natasha and she smiled. I asked her, “What happened?”
Natasha looked up. It was as if all the walls she had built up in order to stay strong during this entire ordeal came crashing down at the same time. Tears swelled in her eyes. “I thought I was going to die.” She finally broke down. She started to sob. We all started to sob.
Through her tears and our hugs she explained how she was traveling down the turnpike. She wasn’t going too fast. She was traveling about 70 to 75 mph. She was traveling with the “flow of traffic.” She was in the left lane. She reached over for something in the passenger’s seat with her right hand. She took her eyes off the road for a split second. Her left hand that was still on the steering wheel pulled the wheel left. Next thing she knew she felt her car go out of the lane. Her tires began to hit the warning devices that indicate you are going off the road. This made that terrible sound of GRRR GRRR GRRR – as the tires hit the warning devices. This noise and the knowledge that she was going off the road freaked her out. So she pulled the steering wheel to the right to get back on the road. However, she over corrected and this caused her car to shoot to the right. Now she was in a swerve at 70 to 75 mph. So she pulled the steering wheel back to the left. She was trying desperately to gain control of the car. But when she pulled back to the left, she over corrected again and now she was shooting off the turnpike to the left. She was shooting at 70 to 75 mph towards the median. She was still out of control. Her tires were skidding. She remembered her tires hitting the dirt in the median and catching. She remembers her car beginning to flip. She remembers thinking, “if I die my parents are going to be destroyed.” She remembers thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening.” She remembers thinking, “I am going to die.”
She said that she was almost resigned to the fact that she was going to die. The last thing she remembers thinking was me always reminding her, “Don’t ever roll your car – it’s a convertible – you won’t survive.”
She doesn’t remember anything from that point until she started to regain conscious thought. Next thing she remembers is being upside down. Someone was yelling at her, “undue your seatbelt, I can’t get you out unless you undue your seat belt.”
She said at first she could not understand. She did not understand where she was. She did not understand why someone was yelling at her. But slowly, she began to come back from where she had been. She finally, understood, undue the seatbelt. Her mind was finally allowing her to think. She wasn’t dead. She was alive. She needed to undue her seatbelt.
Painfully, she reached down and undid the seatbelt. Immediately, someone pulled her out from underneath the car. She was laying in the grass. She was terrified. She was crying. People were asking her questions. She saw the face of a very nice man. He was talking calmly to her. He was asking her questions like, “Does your head hurt?” Can you move this or that. “What day is today?” “Where do you live?”
In her mind, these questions were easy. She thought, “Why was this man asking me silly questions?”
She heard in the background someone found her cell phone. They were trying to find someone to call. She felt obligated to let them know, “Don’t call my Dad. He is going to kill me. Besides he is in the law library and no one can talk to him there.”
I am sure when she said that everyone began to realize that she was probably going to be Ok.
Someone put the phone to her ear and it was Patrick, her boyfriend. He kept asking if she was ok; and she kept saying she was going to be ok. She wished they had not called Patrick.
The fire rescue people strapped her to a back board and placed her in the ambulance. While she was in the fire rescue unit she called me. This was when her and I had that brief conversation. She wanted everyone to know she was going to survive. Next thing she knew she was at the hospital.
When she finished her story, the physician’s assistant walked back in with a smile and said, “All the x-rays are normal. She can leave.”
I sat and listened to those words. They sunk in. In my mind I thought, “How is that possible? She rolled her convertible.”
We completed the paperwork. We received her post hospital instructions for follow up and medication. Just then the woman who we had first spoken to when we walked in came to Natasha’s room. The one who had directed us to “Room 4” with little to no emotion.
“I knew your daughter was going to be ok. I can tell by looking at their faces.” The admission clerk continued, “I saw her smile and just knew she was going to be ok.”
We made some small talk about how thankful we were that Natasha had been spared. Then she revealed the reason she felt obligated to come back to our room. “I lost my daughter in a car accident a few years ago. That is one of the reasons I want to be here. I like doing what I can for those young girls who come to our hospital. Unfortunately, my daughter’s accident was close to my house. I saw the accident after it happened. I saw my daughter. I saw her face.”
The admission clerk didn’t cry. She did not break down. She just held my daughter’s hand. Almost like a reminder to my daughter, my wife and I that we had come very close to having our entire lives change.
I had already made arrangements for a hotel nearby. We got her in a wheel chair and we rolled her out of the hospital. Past folks who had not been as fortunate. Past those who were still dealing with their emergency.
The three of us arrived at the hotel and went to bed. It did not take much for any of us to fall into a deep sleep. Natasha tossed and turned because of the pain. But we all slept.
The next morning I began to come out of my sleep. My eyes were still shut. My mind was beginning to think. I remembered that I was in a hotel. I remembered the phone call. This thought sent a jolt through my body. My eyes shot opened. I looked for Natasha. She was in the bed right next to me. Breathing easily and looking peaceful. Sleeping next to her mother. Just like when she was a little girl. In my mind I kept thinking, “How is that possible? She rolled her convertible.”
I left them sleeping. I went to find coffee and to begin to make arrangements to pick up her personal property that had remained with the car. I called the tow company and they said they were already awake.
The tow yard was like many I had been to. Through the years I had attended several car inspections at tow yards. I was always amazed at how metal can twist and turn when a car is involved in an accident at high speed. I was also amazed at the story a wrecked car tells about their driver. The stickers, the knick knacks, the personal items, the books, the stuff that you always mean to get out of your car but you never have enough hands.
I made small talk at the window and did my paperwork so I could gain access to the car. There was another parent there. Her son had basically gone for a joy ride, without permission, in her mother’s car and crashed. No one was hurt. Despite all of the complications, we both agreed that we were lucky that our children were alive.
A young man came to the gate. He said, “Are you here for the Chrysler?”
He let me in the gate and I piled on the golf cart. We drove to the back of the tow yard. He was quiet. He really did not say a word. As we were driving I said, “It was my daughter that was in that car.”
He said nothing.
Again I tried to start a conversation, “Have you seen the car?”
“She did not have a broken bone in her body.”
“Damn. WOW! I can’t believe it. Only reason I did not want to talk to you was I was afraid to ask what happened to your daughter. There is nothing left of the car. Have you seen it?”
“No. We were dealing with her last night. Today it is the car.”
“Usually, with cars like this, I am I dealing with someone who has just lost their child. I have to watch them come here and pick out their kids stuff from the car. It’s tough,” he drove further in the tow yard. “I thought you were one of them.”
We came upon what was left of Natasha’s Chrysler Sebring convertible. I sat for a moment. It took my breath away. It was crushed. I sat motionless. Half the reason I saw motionless was because I was in shock seeing the car. The other half was because I did not know how to get in the car so that I could start looking for her stuff.
I could not go in the passenger side because it was crushed. The door would not open. Someone had stuck the hood of the car on top of the car and that, to a degree, prevented access from the top.
As I looked at the car I thought once again, “She rolled her car. She was in a convertible. She was traveling 70 to 75 mph. How did she not break a bone in her body.” I got out of the golf cart. As I walked towards the car I thought about what the tow yard worker had said. What if I would have been one of those parents? What if I was coming here to gather up my deceased daughter’s items? How did she survive?
When I got to the car, I walked around. I looked at every angle. I kept wondering how her head did not hit anything. In her convertible her head was about 2 feet or more above the top of the driver side door when she drove. So how did her head not hit anything if it rolled and there was nothing left in that car above the top of the driver side door.
I looked in the driver side. I could not believe what I saw. The driver’s seat had folded back. I don’t know if it broke or it just collapsed and went back. But because that seat had folded down flat, and the seatbelt went with the seat, she was basically strapped down to the bottom of the car. As a result, her head was not sticking above the door.
If she had been anywhere else in the car, she would not have survived. If she would have been in the passenger seat she probably would have been crushed by the impact to the side door. If she would have been in the back seat, the crush of the trunk probably would have killed her. If her seat had not collapsed back she would have hit her head and killed her. It was as if the hand of God had created a cocoon right where Natasha sat so that she would not be hurt. It was literally the only place she could have been for her not to be hurt.
When I saw the car it hit me. I realized that this was not just dumb luck. Natasha had been blessed. I had been blessed. My wife had been blessed. Her brother, Charlie, had been blessed. This was a miracle. When I saw that car I realized, if that accident happens 1,000,000 times, a person walks away once.
I broke down. I was trying not to look like some sort of emotional freak crying next to a wrecked car. But emotion overtook me. I felt so humble. So powerless. When that car began to roll, I did not even know she was in trouble. When that car began to roll doing 70 to 75 mph and thousands of pounds of metal were about to come crashing down upon the head of my daughter, I could have done nothing to save her even if I was standing on the side of the road right next to her. But something saved her. Something more powerful than logic. Something that doesn’t make sense. Something supernatural made that driver’s side seat fall back and protect her. For some reason, Natasha’s story did not end on that fateful day.
As I picked Natasha’s stuff, her makeup, her hair brush, her clothes, her jewelry, her blow dryer, her books, her computer, her knick knacks, her “Beach Bum” license plate, I realized how different life would have been if this was all that was left.
The fact that my daughter is alive is a miracle. The definition of a miracle is an event not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency. This event had nothing to do with human power. And there is no accident reconstructionist, engineer, mechanic, or any other expert that could explain my daughter surviving this accident. Therefore, as the definition explains, the only explanation is the supernatural.
I took the time to write this story and post these photographs so that you can share in this miracle. I truly do not care if you believe in Jesus, Budda, Mohammad, God, or any other figure. I do not care what you call what you believe. What matters is that you truly understand that miracles happen. If you say you don’t believe in miracles, take another look at these photographs. Tell me how my daughter walked away without a broken bone in her body without a miracle.
I hope this story inspires people to have a better life. Wake up tomorrow and think to yourself, a miracle might happen today.
I woke up the Monday of my daughter’s accident feeling like the supernatural had been beaten out of me. I never thought of a miracle. I relied on me. Other people were the ones that got lucky. They were the ones that got what they didn’t deserve. I was the guy who did everything right and got screwed in the end. That was just life. All this mumbo jumbo about God and miracles was for cartoons and children’s stories. It had no impact on my life.
Then I heard the news, “She rolled her car.” Then I saw her car, twisted and mauled. And I am a witness to the fact that she walked away from this accident without a broken bone in her body. And now I know miracles happen. I know something supernatural saved my daughter. I know the hand of God reached down and pushed that seat back.
As I wake up each day, no matter how I feel, no matter what is on my mind, my mantra is “A miracle might happen today.” If you wake up with that one thought every day, you can’t live your life without a smile on your face. You can’t go to sleep with worry if tomorrow a miracle might happen. Live your life miraculously. I hope this story convinces you to have hope and carry on…and to believe in miracles.