An Angel in Every Lap

In this excerpt from The Best Angels Stories 2013, heavenly angels save a van filled with children.

By Joan Wester Anderson

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The trip started out as hundreds of others did. Lorie Torbeck of Appleton, Wisconsin, helped by her teenage daughter, Eryn, buckled the seven children who attended Lorie’s home day care into their seats in her big Chevy Suburban to go to the high school. 

“Eryn was a cheerleader, and it was yearbook picture day for the team,” Lorie later recalled. “The kids and I had made this quick trip dozens of times.” Now, as they were driving along a narrow stretch of highway, a white panel truck came toward them. Lorie moved onto the shoulder to give the truck ample room to pass. But as she tried to return to the highway, her tires became stuck in a six-inch drop from the concrete to the gravel shoulder. The vehicle began to fishtail.

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“Hold on!” Eryn screamed. The van rolled over. Dear God, not now—the children are with me! Lorie silently pleaded as the van rolled a second time.

Immediately she heard a voice saying, “Don’t be frightened. God is with you, and you will all be all right.” She also had a vision of angels sitting on the children’s laps, wrapping their arms around each little one.

“An overwhelming sense of peace came over me,” Lorie said, and she was able to relax even as the truck became airborne and flipped twice more, then came to a rest upright on a small hill.

The sudden silence was horrifying. Lorie was afraid to turn around and look, and instead fumbled for her cell phone. Where was it?

Suddenly, everyone was crying. Cars around them were stopping. “Call an ambulance!” Lorie yelled, then turned to help the children.  Seeing everyone alive, she flew into action, pulling back two of the boys who were attempting to scramble through the broken windows, then passing four of the preschoolers to bystanders who had come to help.

Eryn unbuckled Makayla, the screaming baby, from her car seat—she had probably saved Makayla from serious injury by wrapping herself around the baby as the van rolled. As the second-to-last child was removed, it suddenly occurred to Lorie that the van might roll again, but three-year-old Cody was still inside, too far for her reach.

“But no one would let me crawl back to reach him,” Lorie recalled. “I had to wait until the police arrived, and they got him out.” Wearily, Lorie climbed the hill.

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Good Samaritans had set all the children on blankets and were keeping them warm and safe. Lorie did a quick exam and discovered that four had escaped injury except for bruising from their seatbelts. The other three had glass cuts on their hands, but nothing more serious. As the ambulances arrived, she realized that she was covered in blood from a severed artery. She didn’t know yet that she also had broken a vertebra.

“A policeman told me later that when he saw the damage to my truck, he expected to be pulling bodies out of it,” Lorie said. “No one could believe there weren’t more serious injuries.” 

Later, Lorie discovered that her aunt, who lived seventy miles away, had been moved to get down on her knees and pray for a relative who was traveling. The feeling came upon her at 3:30 pm, the exact time Lorie’s truck began to roll.

It was a miracle. But a few days later when her day care reopened, Lorie discovered she wasn’t the only one to recognize it. “There were angels in our laps in the truck that day,” a boy told Lorie matter-of-factly, then ran off to play. Before she could react, another child told her the same thing.

Lorie remembered her vision: an angel in each child’s lap protecting each little body and the calm voice that assured her everyone would survive. She had not mentioned this experience to anyone except Eryn, and yet the children knew. She gives thanks each day for this gift.

This article is excerpted from The Best Angels Stories 2013.