Three seconds. That’s how fast it all happened, Arika Stovall says. The couple doesn’t know how they managed to make it out alive.
Stovall, a Lipscomb University student, and her boyfriend, Hunter Hanks, were driving back to Nashville, Tennessee, from Jacksonville, Florida, on New Year’s Day when the young couple’s pickup veered into bridge support.
They don’t remember how they ended up just seconds away from slamming into a concrete slab, but photos of Hank’s mangled Toyota Tundra show how the two narrowly escaped with their lives.
“I don’t know how we lived through that,” Stovall, a graphic design student, tells CNN affiliate WTVF.
But it wasn’t the photo of the devastation that caught people’s attention on social media. It was the photo of the couple reuniting at the hospital that has touched the hearts of social media users. In the photo, Hanks is leaning over Stovall, who is lying in a hospital bed; they’re smiling at each other despite their wounds.
The couple shared the photo of them in their neck braces on Facebook.
“Three seconds. That’s how long we had from the moment we drifted off the road until the truck hit the pillar at 85 mph,” the post starts. Throughout her post, Stovall tells those to believe in the power of love and God.
“We’re so grateful for this wreck and all it will do in our lives,” she writes.
Savannah Gaines, a close friend of the couple, captured the viral photo when the two laid eyes on each other hours after the accident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
It's only by the grace of God (that we don't deserve) that just 2 days later we're able to smile and stand in front of this huge pile of destroyed metal that was once my best friend of a truck. Im happy her face looks a lot prettier than mine does. Once again thank you to everyone who prayed and is still praying for us and sharing our story. You would be amazed at how many lives have been touched and how many people have reached out to us explaining why their faith in God is restored all because of such a frightening but yet beautiful miracle. I'll share my details of the accident shortly like Arika did. Definitely one that will give you goose bumps. Can't express enough how much I appreciate the love from all my friends and family all around, especially Nashville and back in Florida and my hometown of Baker. #muchlove
“It was unbelievable when they saw each other. I know them so well, and they love each other so much. They were completely blessed to walk away from that,” Gaines says.
The couple didn’t expect the photo to become so popular online. It had more than 86,000 shares on Facebook on Monday morning.
“We’ve gotten hundreds of messages just telling us that our story brought them out of a dark place in their life and changed their life,” Stovall tells WTVF.
Both suffered from concussions, but they plan on returning to school on Monday.
I don't know the words to say yet. I don't know what fully even happened. All I know is that had the Lord not been with us, not had bigger plans for Hunter and I, we wouldn't be here today. Much less already walking on my own, two days later. There is an amazing story of a miracle and God's protection to be told. One you won't even believe! And I can't wait to share it with everyone. I'm still a little scatter brained right now but I will say this: "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." -Genesis 28:15 That's a verse on the one and only page that was marked in Hunters Bible- which happened to be sitting alone, with a single page parked, where the truck hit. God is real. He is working and he has a plan. Even if scary stuff are a part of it…embrace it. My New Years resolution with Hunter was to live out our days fully for God, as if each one is a gift. And that's what this wreck was. Despite the damage, loss, and pain we are going through all we can do is worship. THANK you Jesus for this second chance at life. For this reminder that you are why we are here.