Jackie Hance had no way of knowing that July 26, 2009 would be the worst day of her life.
It started out like many others. She was at home in Floral Park, New York, along with her husband of 10 years, Warren. Their three beautiful daughters --- Emma, Alyson and Katie --- were on their way home from a camping trip upstate with their Aunt Diane (Warren’s sister) and Uncle Danny, and their two children, Bryan and Erin. The girls had been excited to go. They had gone camping the previous year, and Jackie and Warren knew they would be in good hands with his sister and brother-in-law, who had always shown themselves to be responsible, caring parents. Danny had left the campsite earlier in his car, and Diane loaded up all five children in her minivan early that Sunday morning and headed south toward Long Island. A few routine stops were made --- a McDonald’s for something to eat, and a gas station where Diane was captured on security camera, calmly searching for something in the convenience store, not finding it, and then leaving again. The next few hours would irrevocably change all their lives and begin a nightmare for the Hances.
A little after 12:08 pm, Jackie spoke to Diane, who explained they had gotten a late start but that everything was fine. The two then chatted about upcoming family activities and a school play that Diane wanted to make sure she attended. But at 12:58 pm, things took an ominous turn. Emma, Jackie’s oldest daughter, called her to say “Something is wrong with Aunt Diane” and began to cry. Warren got on the phone right away, emphatically urging his sister to stay where they were and not get back in the car. He would pick them up, as he figured they were at the rest area near the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown.
"Heartbreakingly real, raw and honest, Jackie Hance’s memoir of her staggering ordeal is a true testament to triumph over tragedy; of fortitude and faith pulling you through the worst that life can throw at you."
But before he could reach them, 36-year-old Diane Schuler had gotten back into the car with the children, driven the wrong way onto the entrance ramp of the Taconic Parkway, gone almost two miles at 70 miles an hour, and collided into an oncoming car, killing herself, her baby daughter, the three Hance girls, and the two passengers in the other car. Only Diane’s young son, Bryan, survived. Understandably, the news devastated Jackie, Warren, and their families. What had happened? Diane was always so responsible. Did she have a seizure? An aneurysm? Was it a migraine from an abscessed tooth? (Many thought she was searching for aspirin in that convenience store). How could this have happened? Eight innocent people were dead, and there were no answers or explanations for their loved ones.
How does one go on in the wake of such a tragedy? Jackie and Warren had lost all three children --- their immediate family wiped out, and unbelievably, the worst was yet to come. Weeks later, the toxicology report revealed that Diane had elevated levels of both alcohol and marijuana in her system. (A search of the minivan also revealed an empty vodka bottle.) This went against everything Jackie knew about her sister-in-law. The facts did not reconcile with her own feelings, making an already tragic event even more unbearable: “My pain was so deep that I cou