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Malaki - March 1997 Volume 3 Issue 2

Struggle isn’t bad.

A butterfly’s struggle inside the cocoon makes its wings strong.

by Sandra Lee Herder (Portland OR.)

What a powerful message! This is a belief I hold true to my heart, it has given me strength and determination especially after my tragic car accident ten months ago.

I will begin my story at the scene on April 12, 1996 at 8:00 a.m. It was a pretty cold day to be wearing a sarong (which is a Hawaiian wrap) and sandals, a Haku (a flower wreath head band) and a dozen shell necklaces, but this was the big day for 25 first graders along with their teacher me, Mrs. Herder. We were ready for our Hawaiian day’s assembly, we had devoted almost a month to learning about the culture through songs, books, music, and dance. My mind was busy going over details on how to introduce the seven hula dances.

I commute 25 minutes each day one way to work. It so happened on this morning on a four lane bridge, the Fremont Bridge on Interstate-5, there was a stalled jeep in the third land. Of course I was unaware of this for I drove a small Volkswagen Jetta and the fogged windows didn’t help either. The car in front of me barely swerved out from behind it and almost caused a accident to my left as the car behind him let out a long horn. As my view became clear I had no time but to put my brakes on. The next thing I knew I looked up to see my windshield shattered into hundreds of pieces. I also remember a head indentation in the glass, heavy with blood. It seemed like an endless amount of time for someone to stop and see if I was all right. I tried to get out of the car but the traffic was whizzing by me so fast, so instead I pressed my horn because of the pain I felt in my two legs. I prayed out loud to God that my knee bones would not be protruding out. As I looked down the whole front of my car was caved in on my legs, but praise God, just a bleeding knee.

First to arrive was a nurse who was off duty and a paramedic. (By the way who-ever and where-ever you two are thank you , thank you for being there until the ambulance came.) Another blessing at this time is that the hospital was just 5 minutes away. As the paramedics wrapped my dead in a plastic foam brace they pressed against my wound and I blacked out in the ambulance. I was awakened by the ajar of the paramedics lifting the cot from the ambulance. All that I murmured was that I had to go to school, 12 teachers were waiting to practice one last time before the grand show.

I did not know how bad my injuries were until I woke up later that afternoon. MY husband was first to arrive at 9:00 a.m. He was very calm and supportive. Bless my supportive and caring staff members at Woodlawn Elementary, my principal canceled appointments and was there at the hospital by 9:30 a.m. Sixteen staff members came to comfort me. I was still incoherent from being sedated. I remember asking for a mirror and my dear friend told me there wasn’t one around.

The next morning my head was throbbing but I finally was alone and could open the desk mirror and take a peek..... I immediately felt ill again as I saw a large six inch laceration starting from the top of my forehead down and across both eyes, not to mention a nick out of my nose along with dozens of glass cuts. This was just the beginning of my struggle to be strong.

Born and raised in Hawaii I came to Oregon in 1986. As I attended the University of Portland in Oregon I was a contestant in several pageants where I took home a title, place as runner-up, attended one National voted as Miss Congeniality, along with various other awards. I enjoyed pageants. I received some scholarship money but it also got me involved in the community and state. It opened the door for many opportunities and I also learned a great deal about myself. In 1989 I married a local Oregonian Rob Herder and today we share two beautiful children, Hayden-5 years and Eldon-2 years.. I had put my pageant and modeling days aside for six years. Then, just as I was beginning to update my portfolio with recent pictures and also had the title of Ms. Oregon US of A 1995 this had to happen. Life seemed so unpredictable.

Now ten months later as I look back I can honestly say that everything that happens in life, it happens for a reason. Through eyebrows and eyelashes missing, to my right eyebrow losing its nerve to go up and down with my facial expressions, to a chunk of tissue missing from my left nostril, to dents in my forehead from a error of steroid treatments. I have been through two surgeries to my face and have come back to face daily life with nose bandages to a red face from Laser resurfacing. (All in which was paid for by a referral from the health provider that caused the indents to my scars on my forehead and upper bridge to my nose.) Everything feel into place and through it all I have gained so much. 1) the power that comes from inside, 2) the determination that things are going to get better and to make the most of where I am at now. So many times you may say to yourself if only I was 10 pounds lighter, if only I had a clear face in a time of pictures, if only my hair would cooperate. How many times I wished for the situations instead of spending most my time drawing my eyebrows even, with an eyebrow pencil or trying to disguise my red scars, especially the bumpy one on the side of my nose.

If I were asked this question in a pageant "If you could go back and change one thing in your life what would it be?" I would not choose to erase my car accident. This has been the most moving lesson in my life and I feel I also have a wonderful opportunity to witness to students and people where ever I go the power of attitude.

February 24, 1997, Ten months after my car accident I am presently holding the title of Mrs. Portland and will be competing for the Mrs. Oregon International this coming May 17, 1997 at the Hult center in Eugene, Oregon. As I sit here and type this on my computer it was a great day at school being it was my first day back with a burned face and a white gauze bandage over my whole forehead and entire nose. My Kindergartners gave my big hugs and reminded me that I said I was only going to be out two days, not four.

Sandy Herder

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Copyright 1997 Hale Pai Pacific American-News Journal
Last modified: February 28, 1998

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