In 2006, the unthinkable happened to 9 families. Their loved ones, all students and staff of Taylor University, Indiana, were involved in a devastating collision between the van they were traveling in and a tractor-trailer.
Four of the students died, as well as one university employee.
The Ceraks and the Van Ryns were two of the families touched by the crash. Student Whitney Cerak, aged 18, was declared dead at the scene, while Laura Van Ryn was alive, though in critical condition.
Both families were torn apart. The Ceraks had suffered a profound loss and the Van Ryns didn’t know what would happen next.
Laura’s family would go on to spend five weeks at her hospital bedside, however, before realizing that the girl in the bed wasn’t even her!
The woman who they thought was Laura yawned one day and the family noticed that her teeth looked different. Later, they discovered that she had a belly button piercing, when Laura did not.
It took a little more time before the family were able to confirm the unthinkable. The young woman in the hospital bed began to regain her strength and awareness. Doctors asked her to write down her name and she wrote ’Whitney’ instead of ‘Laura’.
The two travelling companions had looked so much alike that neither the families nor the authorities had been able to tell them apart!
The Ceraks experienced what felt like a miracle; they got their daughter back. The Van Ryns, however, were confronted with what they hoped they would never have to face – the death of their Laura. And it had happened five weeks before!
As painful and tragic as the situation was, it drew both families together, and recently, after years out of the public eye, the Van Ryns spoke on NBC about the faith that ultimately got them through the trauma.
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