BOISE -- Monday marks the nine year anniversary of the tragic deaths of Natalie Marti's husband and baby daughter. Shawn and Sage Marti were killed when they were hit head-on by a drunk driver going 98 miles per hour the wrong way on the interstate. Natalie survived the accident and today, she is doing everything she can to stop drunk driving.
Could you forgive the drunk driver who took your family from you? Natalie Marti said she had to in order to move on with her life.
Nine years later, it is still painful for Natalie to remember the night of the accident.
"Time doesn't take the pain away, time helps you get used to this new normal, but that doesn't stop me from hurting," she said.
Natalie survived the accident with several broken bones and a severe brain injury. After a lot of hard work and physical therapy, she recovered fully. Her doctors call it a miracle.
"Nine years has been an incredible journey, hard journey," said Natalie. "But I've been trying to make it as positive as I can."
Now, she is dedicating her life to speaking out against drunk driving.
"Speaking has been amazing for me. I speak at victim panels, schools," she said. "When I get feedback saying, 'After hearing your story and experience, you have changed me, and I will never drive under the influence again,' that is why I am alive. This is my purpose."
In October 2003, Edgar Hernandez-Vasquez was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Natalie was there for the sentencing.
"I thought, 'This was my only chance to talk to him, I want to go say something,'" she explained.
What she did next is nothing short of amazing.
"I told him that I forgive him. I said 'You know, I am not okay with the choice you made, but I need to forgive you if I'm going to have any happiness in my life again,'" she said. "I was like 'Okay, that's over,' thinking that would be the only time I'd ever have contact with him."
But years later, Natalie wrote him a letter.
"It was me making the decision, 'You know what? I need more help in this healing process.' We wrote back and forth a few times before I decided to visit this man," Natalie said.
The man who killed her husband and child has apologized over and over.
"He said 'I would do anything for you. I wish I could take your pain away,'" she said.
Just this month, she went to the prison again to interview him on video.
"I went in with a list of questions. Since he can't be there with me as I speak, I can show a video where people can see him and hear from his own mouth how this has affected his life," Natalie explained.
Here is how the interview on the video went:
Natalie: You have no memory at all of the car wreck happening at all? No. Wow.
Edgar: I try to remember and remember, but I can't. I don't know what happened that night.
Natalie: What was it like when you were told of the deaths of Shawn and Sage?
Edgar: Just suddenly my life changed. It's hard for me and I would do anything for you, but I can't because I am in prison.
Natalie: So what do you think you have lost?
Edgar: I've lost like my freedom. But that's the consequence for bad decisions.
Natalie: Have you forgiven yourself?
Edgar: Thanks to you, you helped me to forgive myself.
Natalie says it may seem strange for her to be talking to the man who killed her family, but she does not let anger get the best of her.
"When I sit across from him, I do my best not to go there," Natalie explained. "Because I know that he is in pain and I have to remember, you know, that he's a good man who made a bad choice."
"For the first three years, I asked myself many questions, 'Why did I do this?' You know?" said Edgar in the video interview. "My plans when I get out of here are to help people who have a problem with alcohol. We can't change the past, but we can change the future."
As for Natalie's future, she has written an electronic book about her journey and she hopes to take her public speaking across the country. She is also training for a marathon, which is something she calls therapeutic.
She wants people who are struggling to know that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel.
"My worst nightmare has come true, of my family being killed," said Natalie. "Now the fact that I can say I'm happy, the fact that I am dating someone else and in a great relationship. That's a miracle in my eyes. I never thought I could be in that place."
On the anniversary of the accident, and every day, her family is never forgotten.
"I go to the grave site, I take some alone time, and I just think about them," Natalie shared. "Be smart. One small moment your life can change, make the decision not to drink and drive."
Natalie's e-book will be released Monday, on the 9th anniversary of the accident. It can be found on her website.