GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The survivor of a van crash who was wrongly identified as a college classmate has started talking, laughing and is beginning to understand that family and friends believed for more than a month that she had been killed in the wreck, according to a family Web log.
"It is such a blessing for me to see how resilient she has been to having the news of the accident and mix-up largely revealed to her these past few days," wrote Whitney Cerak's older sister, Carly Cerak. "She has had many questions and many tears."
Whitney Cerak, 19, is recuperating at a rehabilitation facility near Grand Rapids.
She was among 10 people from Indiana's Taylor University who were riding in a school van that collided with a tractor-trailer on April 26. Five died in the crash.
Laura VanRyn, 22, was among the five victims, but in a mixup after the crash, her parents were told she was alive, while Cerak's family was told their daughter was dead. The VanRyns kept vigil at Cerak's bedside for weeks before realizing the badly injured and bruised young woman wasn't Laura.
VanRyn's body was exhumed last week from a grave in Cerak's hometown of Gaylord, positively identified and reburied.
When senior pastor Jim Mathis and other staff from Cerak's church visited her on Monday, she greeted them all by name, her sister wrote in the family's blog.
She said Cerak smiled and laughed throughout the visit and told Mathis, who had eulogized her in April, "Thanks for speaking at my funeral."