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And I was all ready to say, "We’re not interested." And I think he said something like, "We have your daughter, Laura, in the hospital in Fort Wayne. Susie Van Ryn: You want to believe that accidents happen a lot. And all you can say is, "God, just take care of her. Be with her and keep her alive." Newell Cerak: I was beside myself. Matt Lauer: Did you recognize everything in the bag? Lisa Van Ryn: Didn't recognize the shoes, but we always borrow clothes and share clothes. She's been in an accident." And it took me a second or so to kind of grasp that. They're not always fatal and, you know, so that's what you're thinking. I just didn't -- I needed information and I couldn't get it. What neither family knew yet was just how deadly the crash had been. To see your daughter or your child laying there helpless. Matt Lauer: You were handed a bag of her belongings? And so we thought, "Oh, she must have been wearing someone else's shoes."When they brought us in to see you, honey, my heart was so full of love for you. It was hard for you-- Susie Van Ryn: Kind of this-- Matt Lauer: --to think everything was going to be OK? Colleen Cerak: I always feel like I lived a charmed life. The were heading south on interstate 69, towards the main campus. Colleen Cerak: Kind of ignored it because we had just had a chance to kind of catch up on what was going on. And that just made us feel really, really, really good. Laura and her boyfriend, Aryn, had been dating for three years. Matt Lauer: What was she like as a child growing up? And she left me a message, I believe on their trip up to Fort Wayne. At about 8 p.m., their work done, Laura and Whitney, along with seven other students and staff members, were riding in a school van. But what we wanted to hear and what a lot of them did was share moments of how Whitney had touched them. The impact flung passengers and their belongings all over the interstate. She was desperate for news, hoping Whitney had survived. That Whitney was one of the victims in the accident. I just was just so sad that I just said, "Thank you." I didn't really talk very long on the phone. On April 27, the day after the crash, Taylor University held a prayer service for the victims. Colleen Cerak: They had like the big projector screen. Two days after the crash: April 28, 2006 Her left leg (femur) and left elbow are broken and have been placed in casts. Five of the nine people on the van were killed instantly. The four survivors all suffered injuries -- some serious. That's -- I just wanted to get off and talk to Newell. Matt Lauer: Newell, when you heard your wife's voice on the phone? And they would flash the names of the different victims that had died. We just ran into each other's arms and just started crying. Her right clavicle bone is broken also and it is in a sling right now. Six hours after the crash: April 27, 2006 Fifty miles away, at Parkview Hospital, Laura’s parents and sister were steeling themselves, preparing to see her for the first time since she'd been terribly injured in the crash. And she had a blanket over her and everything was wrapped up. Don Van Ryn: They told us at that point, “Expect to see her in an altered state. Lisa Van Ryn: Well, a lot of things that were foreign -- like machines and tubes.
So I just -- you kind of almost feel like you're waiting for something to happen. And yet I don't have to look very far to see that it happens all the time. It's a story of deep faith and undying love -- and how both were tested to the limit by an almost unimaginable twist of fate. I didn't get through and so I thought, "Well, I’ll call her later." Matt Lauer: How about you, Lisa? Matt Lauer: During the visitation, I guess an obvious question, the casket was-- Newell Cerak: Closed.
Matt Lauer: On the highway, you pass the scene of the accident. Newell Cerak: We felt bad that he was the one that had those visions in his head. Matt Lauer: What do you remember about that memorial service?