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Brownsville Herald: Crash survivor to speak with U.S. leaders

HARLINGEN — Debra Cruz spends most of her life in her small Harlingen home off Roosevelt Avenue.

She wears sunglasses in her living room to protect her deteriorating eyes and has short-term memory loss.

She takes several prescription medications every day.

She can’t go through metal detectors and keeps her hair cut very short, sometimes short enough to show the scars on the back of her head.

It didn’t used to be that way.

Nine years ago, her life changed.

An accident with an 18-wheeler on her way home left her permanently disabled. But it hasn’t taken away her will. It’s just changed her hopes.

Now, a good portion of her life revolves around doing all she can to make people aware of the devastation accidents can do and to reduce the numbers of these accidents.

“I am grateful and thankful,” Debra said about being alive. “I believe I was put here and survived for a reason.”

One of those reasons may be coming up later this week.

She will be heading to Washington, D.C., Friday to make her plea, again. It’s the second time in three years she has attended what is called “Sorrow to Strength,” a several day event held by the Truck Safety Coalition.

The purpose is to bring awareness to truck safety.

Debra believes she has and can continue to make a difference.

“I look up to Debra,” said Harry Adler, public affairs manager at the Truck Safety Coalition. “I think she is a wonderful representative.”

Adler said Debra, whose trip will be paid for by the Truck Safety Coalition, will be meeting with Congressman Filemon Vela and plans are in the works for her to meet with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn during her visit for Sorrow for Strength. There will be a couple days of workshops and then Debra will go to The Hill to talk with the leaders.

Among the items Debra will speak about include her accident and the situations revolving around it.

“It is always best to get people to tell their story and share it with the lawmakers and the public about what happened to them,” Adler said.

She also will talk about issues regarding truckers, including sleep deprivation, drug and alcohol use as well as proper testing and licensing.

Debra said she was told by her attorneys the driver of the truck that hit her had been in and out of rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abuse, including crystal meth.

“I tell them all this so they know these trucking companies must do better background checks,” Debra said.

Adler said if this was happening in another transportation industry, people would be paying more attention.

“These are not just statistics,” he said about the numbers of deaths and injuries annually in truck accidents. “These are mothers, daughters, fathers and sons.”

An emotional Debra said if she can help make sure this doesn’t happen to one family, her efforts will be worth it and her reason for survival will be clear.

“Debra is passionate about this and really exemplifies the motto for Sorrow for Strength,” Adler said. “She didn’t have to do this, she could have just said, it happened to me and that is it. But, instead, she wants to do what she can so this doesn’t happen to other people. She wants to help others.”

“I look at the way I was before and after — what life was like before,” Debra said. “It gets me a little depressed, but I am still here.”

There are many people in semi-tractor trailer accidents that are no longer here. She said the people she talks to are often amazed she is alive to tell about her ordeal.

She believes there’s a reason for that.

“I still am here and have to talk about it — that’s very important to me,” she said. “If this can help someone else, all that, all the things I have gone through will be worth it. This will all have been worth it if I can make a difference.”

Link: http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/valley/article_0050b93e-2a22-11e7-b9fe-13af3e67259e.html

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 10:15 pm | By LISA SEISER Staff Writer Brownsville Herald