I grew up less than an hour away from Taylor University in Indiana. When that fatal crash involving Taylor students and staff took place in 2006 and the tragic mix-up occurred, resulting in the mistaken identity of Whitney Cerak and Laura Van Ryn, I, along with the rest of the nation, was really disturbed. The Van Ryn family took care of Whitney Cerak for 5 weeks, standing vigil and never leaving her bedside. All that time, they thought she was their daughter, Laura, while Whitney’s own family thought she was dead. The Cerak family mourned the loss, even having a funeral and memorial service, mistakenly burying Laura Van Ryn’s body. It wasn’t till Whitney was asked to write her name did anyone realize that a horrible mistake had been made.
I saw this article today on the anniversary of the accident, and was moved by the fact that the Cerak and Van Ryn families are still so close, 3 years later. Whitney is graduating next month and has plans to join her sister as an orphanage worker in Mombasa, Kenya. Amazing.
I thought that what Matt Lauer said at the end of the Today Show interview was really powerful: “I don’t know how long I’ll do this job, but for as long as I do it, I think that your families will be the most extraordinary families I’ve ever met. I truly mean that.” What an amazing story.
Whitney Cerak and Laura Van Ryn