Last night's "7's Hero" holds a special place in my heart. I had the chance to meet Natalie Marti and her husband Shawn years ago - when Natalie was pregnant with their baby daughter Sage. At the time, I was working on a story about Shawn's mother. She was in need of a kidney transplant - and all of her adult kids, (including Shawn) were being tested to donate to her. While working on the story, we all became close. I remember thinking, what an amazing family this is! Little did I know, little did we all know - Shawn and Sage would die in a tragic car accident only months later.
The Marti Family
As a news anchor, there's nothing quite like reading a story on the air - that you aren't prepared for. The morning of February 28th, 2003 was one of those mornings for me. I was delivering the news as usual, when all of a sudden I read the names of two people killed in a head on accident with a drunk driver in Caldwell the night before. The names hit me hard - because I knew them, I knew them well. It was 24 year old Shawn Marti, and his 5 month old baby girl Sage. On the anchor desk that day, I was so upset about what had happened and so worried about Natalie. How was she? She too was in the accident and lived. How would she survive this? How could anyone survive this kind of loss?
As the weeks and months went by, I followed Natalie's recovery very closely. She had a broken neck, and a severe brain injury. Doctors weren't hopeful she'd recover. Her parents were told she would most likely never function on her own. But she was determined! Slowly, she made progress... proving her doctors wrong. We stayed in touch, and I knew her heart was breaking every day. She had lost everything and was now left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and go on. I knew it would be a long road for her.
Now in 2010, it's seven years later, and I felt her story needed to be told again. We've kept in touch all these years, and I wanted you all to hear how far she has come. She has a successful career as a hair stylist, she graduated from BSU against all the odds, she recently ran a half marathon, and she's writing a book about her life. But what's most inspiring, is that she found it in herself to forgive the remorseful drunk driver who hit her family that night. She even went so far as to visit him in prison and see him face to face. She said it gave her the peace she needed to move on.
Now, Natalie is dedicating her life to telling her personal story, and speaking out against drunk driving. She's begun a career as a professional speaker and is making the rounds around Idaho and the Northwest. She's truly inspiring people everywhere. She now believes this is her new purpose in life... and I think she's right. Hearing her speak is something you will never forget. Trust me, you will hold everyone you love closer, and you will cherish your life even more than you do now.
If you'd like to read more about Natalie's amazing story of triumph over tragedy, or find out how you can invite Natalie to come speak at your school or special event - check out her website. You'll be so glad you did...