The fact that Katie Arrington survived a fatal car wreck despite serious injuries could be described as lucky. But what many call luck, she calls interventions by God.
“My last text to my husband at 9:04 was ‘I love you’…I saw red lights and then I saw two white lights, and I remember yelling ‘Jackie, swerve!’”
As Katie Arrington recounts the devastating events that transpired on the evening of Friday, June 23rd, two distinctly different qualities replace her characteristically energetic demeanor and voice. The first is to be expected – a serious, somber, calm reflection floods over her. The second quality comes as more of a surprise – a quiet, yet unwavering confidence. A puzzling juxtaposition of seemingly incongruent emotions from a survivor of the fatal car wreck.
“I never lost consciousness. I remember everything – it’s indelible. I remember the initial impact, and I remember seeing Mrs. White, the woman who passed…And then, the only way I can describe it is everything that I saw was like through a filter, and it was the whitest white – brilliant white…It [was] through like a sheer curtain that’s all white, but it was beyond that; it glistened and shimmered. And that covered everything, but it was translucent at the same time. And I heard in the back: ‘You are not done yet.’”
That confidence can be found in her description of the wreck that nearly took her life should not be mistaken for self-confidence, however. Instead, this assurance emits from someone who believes that a higher power orchestrated her survival. Katie Arrington’s confidence is rooted in her confidence in God.
Born in Virginia into a Catholic family, attending church was very central in Mrs. Arrington’s life and development. “Sunday church was a cornerstone of who I was as a child,” she explains. But not only church; God and a relationship with Him sat weighty on her mind from a very young age. She remembers her first Communion. She remembers her first Bible and the love she had for it. She remembers a conversation between her four-years-old self and her mother about heaven. “God was never a question,” she shares. “At four-years-old, the relationship with God was there.”
But as many Christians can relate to, Mrs. Arrington’s relationship with God became all the more acute in a time of crisis. “God and I became very dear friends, and I say that in a very loving way, when [the doctors] came in and told me that there was something wrong with my son.” Sitting in Walter Reed Army Medical as a 21-year-old, Mrs. Arrington received the news that her six-week-old son would need surgery to address a life-threatening medical condition.
Her memory of that time remains vivid: “I can distinctly remember the room where you watch x-rays – those white light-up screens – they were all around the room. I can remember sliding down the wall. Just sliding down the wall. To this day [I remember that] the prayer was not ‘why me?’ or ‘how could you do this?’. It was ‘God, I ask you to give me the strength to stand up and to face whatever You put in front of me, and give my son life.’”
After a successful surgery and months of painful recovery, God did in fact give her son life.
In much the same manner as her description of the recent car wreck, Mrs. Arrington’s calm confidence in God makes itself evident: “Ever since that, God has never parted ways with me.”
For whatever reason – perhaps her past experiences or her strong relationship with God – to say that Katie Arrington handled the shock and pain of the immediate aftermath following the wreck on Highway 17 would be an immense understatement, especially considering the way she describes the events of that night:
“I remember the car spinning and then coming to an abrupt halt. Jackie’s (one of Mrs. Arrington’s best friends and the driver of their car on that evening) head was beneath me…and I grabbed her hair and I was screaming her name and she didn’t respond…When I undid my seatbelt, it wasn’t just like [I] had a little blood on my hand, it was like I had dipped my hand in blood, and I said ‘that’s not good.’”
With the help of a few Good Samaritans who stopped to help, Mrs. Arrington was laid on the pavement next to the vehicles, and “then the conversation started with God.”
“[T]hen the worst 17 minutes and the best 17 minutes of my life,” Mrs. Arrington interestingly says. “We got in the [ambulance]…they were asking me questions and I was talking to God: ‘What’s your name?’ ‘My name is Katie Arrington…God are you there? God are you here with me? Yes, okay.’ It was just a constant conversation with God.”
Many would agree that the moments leading up to death are the most terrifying to imagine, but that was not Mrs. Arrington’s experience who instead says that she was thinking of her family and her love for God. Amazingly, she says she was at peace. There was even time for some humor as she told the EMT to tell her husband to remarry (which is a running joke in the family).
The fact that both Jackie and Mrs. Arrington survived the wreck despite profuse bleeding and serious injuries could be described as lucky. But what many call luck, Mrs. Arrington calls interventions by God and that “you can’t make up…or understand how much God has been involved in all of this.” Indeed, whether you believe in luck or God, there’s no doubt that something special was at work in Mrs. Arrington’s life during and following the terrible wreck.
Helen White, the driver of the vehicle that hit Mrs. Arrington’s car head-on, had struck an RV a few miles before the wreck. Police vehicles were already in-route.
Further, “If I had been two or three miles down the road, I would have been in another county and I would have been taken to another hospital then medevaced back to MUSC…I would have died in transit,” Mrs. Arrington points out. “Just another God thing.”
The second person on the scene that night was an Orthopedic Surgeon. But the first person on the scene was an even bigger surprise and blessing: “The Sunday before [the accident], we had gone to this church and the woman sitting in front of us had short greyish brown hair, and I remember her turning around in church and hugging me and saying, ‘God bless you.’” Mrs. Arrington continues, “When the accident happened and the car door opened, that’s the woman that was standing there. First person on the scene: Miss Diane.”
“Really? Really?” That’s all Mrs. Arrington says after telling this story as she searches for the proper words to describe her amazement.
God, however, didn’t just intervene on that day. Her subsequent recovery is scattered with little moments and caring individuals who have encouraged her along this unexpected detour. From sermons in the weeks following the wreck centering on the topic of Jericho (Jericho, South Carolina is where the wreck happened) to prayer times with the President, fellow state public officials and even a couple of times with Palmetto Family Council’s Nehemiah Network, Mrs. Arrington can’t help but know that God continues to be by her side.
There’s no doubt in Mrs. Arrington’s mind that this tragedy opened more doors than she ever could have imagined to share her faith. And she’s not going to let this opportunity pass her by: “There have been so many big spiritual moments where God has been in my life that this isn’t a new awakening; it’s just given me more of a platform to talk about God.”
Mrs. Arrington owns many objects pertaining to her faith, some of which have been gifted to her during these difficult weeks of recovery, but she wastes no time in showing off one that hangs around her neck and no doubt has great meaning to her. The tiny necklace is tiny by necessity – mustard seeds are very small, after all.
Christians know that Jesus shared the parable of the mustard seed to explain that our big God requires only a minuscule amount of faith for believers to be used by Him for great accomplishments. Though Mrs. Arrington modestly compares her faith to her mustard seed necklace, onlookers instead observe a woman whose calm confidence in the aftermath of a tragedy proves that she lives by much more faith than a necklace could ever hold.