Top: Haley Scott DeMaria with husband Jaime and sons James, at right, and Edward; below, with Coach Tim Welsh, at the first swim meet after her return to the team.
Haley Scott DeMaria recalls little of the bus crash 20 years ago that took the lives of two of her teammates and left her paralyzed for a week.
The bus, returning from a swim meet at Northwestern University in a heavy snowstorm, slid off the Indiana Toll Road near mile marker 75, went down an embankment and rolled over. They were just 2 miles from campus.
DeMaria wasn’t frightened at first. It felt as though the bus was turning off the Toll Road, she says, although it seemed too soon to have reached the exit.
After that, the memories come only in flashes—pulling herself out of the broken window of the bus, and lying on her back in the snow for an hour and a half waiting for rescue. Her teammate wouldn’t let her stand up. She remembers saying over and over that she was cold, and her back hurt.
“Then I remember being put on a gurney and taken to the ambulance, and realizing for the first time I couldn’t feel or move anything below the waist,” says DeMaria, who was an 18-year-old freshman at the time of the crash.
DeMaria—told she would never walk again—beat the odds. She not only learned to walk again, she returned to swim competitively for Notre Dame. Today she lives with her husband, Jamie—also a Notre Dame grad—in Annapolis, Md., with their two sons, James, 10, and Edward, 7.
DeMaria, with Bob Schaller, wrote a book about her experiences, “What Though The Odds: Haley Scott’s Journey of Faith and Triumph.”
Since the book was published in 2008, DeMaria has talked to groups—schools, churches and businesses—as often as 10 times per month, telling her story.
“Everyone will face a challenge,” she says. “An accident. An injury. Death. Divorce. You can choose to make the best of it. I’ve also learned that you don’t get there right away. It does take time to heal.”
The University will hold a Mass of Remembrance on the 20th anniversary of the accident, 8 p.m. Jan. 24, in the Basilica in memory of the two swimmers who lost their lives, Meghan Beeler and Colleen Hipp, in thanksgiving for the healing of all involved in the crash, and in thanksgiving to those in the Notre Dame and South Bend communities who responded to the accident that night and going forward.