Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words; Arika Stovall and Hunter Hanks are “living” witnesses of a horrible car crash.
According to a touching January 9 CNN story, a New Year’s Day post-crash pic on Facebook tells a story void of words, but heavy on the impact it had on throngs of people who read the details. The black and white image has gone viral, and the reporting reads like a Nicholas Sparks novel, citing a News Channel 5.
By all accounts, Hunter Hanks and his girlfriend, Arika Stovall, should have been eulogized instead of alive to talk about their harrowing life and death ordeal. Thankfully, that’s not the story here.
Sources say the Nashville couple were traveling back home from a trip to Jacksonville, Florida, (others say Atlanta, Georgia), when their Toyota Tundra pickup truck struck a bridge support. The Lipscomb University students were seconds away from smashing into a concrete wall along I-24 in Murfreesboro when Hunter made an evasive move.
Arika is a graphics artist. However, she didn’t see the enormous outpouring of love and support coming from a simple post only meant to update family and friends of the horrific vehicular accident. Arika posted the image of her and Hunter on January 3, and it went viral in short order.
Arguably, the Arika Stovall-Hunter Hanks picture doesn’t require a caption. The image alone reveals a lot about the couple’s bond, fondness of one another and appreciation of life. Arika said the events of the crash are foggy, but she recalls the strength Hunter displayed, despite his pain. In an excerpt from her FB post, the 21-year-old credited her faith and the power in God in surviving the chilling crash.
“In three seconds Hunter had to handle a situation that would either kill us immediately or save our lives. He keeps beating himself up for my pain but he saved my life. He keeps saying ‘I should have protected you and I didn’t do that’ but he did exactly what he needed to do to make sure my life didn’t end… He took care of me. And when we were both lying in our beds in the ER he found a way to come protect my heart and give me a hug.”
Stovall said she managed to exit the vehicle and saw her boyfriend. She also recalls seeing Hanks, her guardian angel, standing next to her. It was a surreal moment for the young woman.
“From that moment until Hunter was cut and lifted out of the truck I believe with my whole heart that looking at this man helped me to literally believe in that moment that Hunter was next to me on the road. I don’t know if it was a hallucination or me unconsciously dreaming… but all I knew in that moment was that Hunter was safe with me.”
While recovering from home in Florida, Hunter spoke remotely to reporters about the events of the crash. Hanks described the the visible lacerations on his face, but recalls only being concerned about Arika.
“All I cared about was seeing her and making sure she was ok before me, I didn’t care what happened to me as long as she was alright.”
Savannah Gaines is credited with taking the heart-felt photo of Arika Stovall and Hunter Hanks, her close friends. Only hours after the accident, and without thinking, she snapped the photo at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“It was unbelievable when they saw each other. I know them so well, and they love each other so much. They were completely blessed to walk away from that.”
Although the lucky couple didn’t expect the mass attention, the image has already been shared over 70,000 times on Facebook as of this writing.
As to their conditions, Arika and Hunter only sustained mild concussions. Both are planning to return to school on Monday. Imagine that.
[Image via Arika Stovall Facebook Page ]