Did you know that the stories you hear from us on NPR and our podcast are excerpts of interviews pulled from the StoryCorps Archive? Participants visit one of our recording locations with a friend or family member to record a 40-minute interview with the help of a trained StoryCorps Facilitator, or record a conversation using the StoryCorps App. We’re sharing this unedited interview from the StoryCorps Archive with you in its original form.

In this interview recorded at the San Francisco StoryBooth, Susan Aberg talks with Rachael Tsukayama about a terrible accident she had on a Hawaiian hiking trail.

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The trip began as a tranquil retreat, with days spent snorkeling and swimming with sea tortoises. But not long before it drew to a close, a short hike quickly morphed into a violent free-fall down a cliffside precipice. “One or two seconds is all it took to go thirty-five or forty feet off the trail… I felt like I was going in slow-motion, and I thought I was dying. There was no doubt that I was not going to survive this, because I was going head-first off the trail,” Aberg recalls.

Eventually Aberg tumbled into a brush of tropical foliage that broke her fall. “It seemed so wonderful that I thought, ‘Is this heaven?’” she says. She survived with a broken finger and five fractures in her shoulder, but the fall most impacted her outlook on life. “I feel in a way the accident was a gift,” she says, “I’ve learned empathy and patience. I’ve re-imagined what my life could become.”

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