They looked enough alike to be sisters. Same weight, same athletic build, same eye color, same hair color and part. Both were students at Taylor University in Indiana, but were originally from Michigan. Laura and Whitney were among nine people in a university van that was struck by a semi that veered over the divider line and hit them head-on. Five of the nine in the van died. Whitney was pronounced dead at the scene, Laura was rushed off to the hospital, where she lay in a coma. Later she was transferred to Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Newell and Colleen Cerak held a funeral for Whitney, and buried the young woman they believed was their daughter. Meanwhile, Don and Susie VanRyn and their daughter Lisa kept vigil at the hospital for Laura. The physical damage to her body disguised the fact that she was not Laura, but was instead Whitney. Five weeks went by before the mistake in identity was revealed.
It is hard to fathom how such a dreadful mistake could be made in the first place, then continued for five weeks. But equally unfathomable was the way in which the two families handled the tragedy. No angry press conferences. No lawsuits. Just two families grieving and loving at the same time, trusting God to heal their hearts. If I am ever in a situation as terrible as this, I pray that I would be able to handle it with as much grace and understanding as the VanRyn and Cerak families.