The London Free Press

401 disaster survivor pens book

Jenni Dunning - Sun Media
June 21, 2008

Ute Lawrence can finally think of other things.

For almost 10 years, the London woman coped with post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving the 1999 Windsor Highway 401 disaster.

Now, she's written a book, The Power of Trauma, about what she learned from living with the disorder.

"When the final manuscript went off, I suddenly realized that I had lived in the past," she said. "For the first time in a long time . . . I started thinking about old friends."

Lawrence suffered from the disorder after getting caught in one of Canada's worst highway disasters, an 87-vehicle pileup that killed eight people after thick fog descended on the highway.

She was pulled to safety from a crushed car, but struggled to cope with the memory of those who died, including a teenage girl who screamed for help as flames consumed her.

The message of her book, she said, is about helping others deal with the disorder.

"You cannot go back to the way you used to be because this event is now a part of who you are," she said. "Once you accept that, it's not until then that you can start healing."

There aren't many books on trauma written from personal experiences. She wanted to change that to let sufferers know they aren't alone.

"My main motivation is to help people find the light," she said.

Jenni Dunning is a Free Press reporter.