Rachel Creamer, a young mother of four, was making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her children one day last winter when she heard her mother-in-law screaming outside.
Rachel, an artist who was living with her husband, Arrick, and their children in an RV parked in her father-in-law's driveway in Tunnel Hill, Ga., burst outside the little trailer to find her 2-year-old daughter, Liora, sitting slumped over in the gravel driveway looking as lifeless as a rag doll.
In an instant, the scenario became clear. Little Liora had reached under a Honda Odyssey minivan to retrieve a ball just as her step-grandmother was backing out of the driveway.
As the big vehicle backed over the little girl, the oil pan and transmission differential likely hit little Liora in the head, fracturing her skull from ear to ear.
The hysterical cries of her father's stepmother suddenly screaming Liora's name pierced the early afternoon air.
By the time Rachel rushed to her daughter's side, there was a trickle of blood coming out of one of Liora's ears, and she was vomiting blood.
With the fierce focus of a mother facing a child's mortality, Rachel resolutely called her daughter's name: "Liora. Liora wake up."
Liora opened her eyes but quickly fell back into unconsciousness.
Every time this happened, her mother's urgent voice dragged her back and her eyes snapped open.
"I know Liora died several times in that driveway," her mother says now. "Don't ask me how I know, but I know."
Incredibly, within two minutes an ambulance was on the scene and Liora was rushed to Erlanger hospital. On the frantic ride, her mother began a continuous prayer, begging that her daughter's life be spared. At one point, Liora stopped breathing.
"Now I know what it means when the Bible talks about praying without ceasing," Rachel said.
The EMTs were shaken, the doctors discouraged, but Rachel continued to pray. X-rays showed a continuous fracture of the skull from temple to temple.
"It was a fearsome thing to behold," her mother says of the X-ray.
Word soon spread in the little Tunnel Hill community that a child had been hurt, and how. Prayer request caught fire on social media, and the prayer circle widened and widened.
"We think at one point there may have been more than 10,000 people in several countries praying for Liora," Rachel says now.
In a turn of events that can only be described as miraculous, Liora had no swelling or bleeding in the brain, and her skull began to heal almost immediately.
Against all odds, she was able to leave the hospital in two days while her family was cared for at the Ronald McDonald House on Central Avenue.
Now, four months after the accident, Liora appears to have no lasting effects from the injury.
"By all accounts she should be dead," her father, Arrick, said.
He said his stepmother still struggles with the accident.
"We've forgiven her from Day One," he said. "I told her it was an accident. It could have easily been me."
There's a fancy gadget on some new cars these days called a rearview camera.
It's a device that allows a driver to see on an in-dash video screen if anything -- a toy, a pet or, God forbid, a child -- is in the path of vehicle before backing up.
The U.S. government estimates that there are nearly 300 deaths a year associated with these "backup" accidents. Many involve children who run out to say goodbye to a parent backing out of a driveway.
If there is anything more horrible to contemplate, I don't want to know about it.
Part of my job at the newspaper is test-driving new cars. More and more new models come with a rearview camera option.
President George W. Bush signed an auto-safety law in 2008 that would have required carmakers to install rearview cameras, but the rule has been delayed because of its considerable price tag, $2.7 billion annually.
I'm not big on government mandates, but I would strongly encourage new-car shoppers to consider springing for this option on your next car purchase if you have the means.
It's cheap insurance against a possible unspeakable tragedy.
Sometimes, I think, prayers remain in the atmosphere until they eventually rain down on us as common sense.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...