June 04. 2008

Her book is about family and faith


Tribune Columnist

Most of us still remember Haley Scott -- now Haley Scott DeMaria.

How could we forget her?

She was the miracle story from the Notre Dame bus crash of 1992 that claimed two of her swimming teammates' lives.

Haley was initially told she would never walk again from the back injuries she received during the Indiana Toll Road wreck -- just four miles from campus.

Two years later, she was swimming for the Irish again. Then three years after that, she was running the Los Angeles Marathon.

Haley was our hero.

She inspired us with her courage, and we embraced her through her long and tenuous recovery.

And now with her new book, "What Though the Odds" (Cross Training Publishing), she takes us back to that horrible night that forever changed her life and the sometimes scary, often inspirational journey that followed.

She lives in Annapolis, Md., now with her husband, Jamie, and their two sons.

And what we learn from her soon-to-be-released book is that Meghan Beeler and Colleen Hipp, those who perished in the bus crash, have continued to be very much part of her everyday life, too.

"Truly, they are the reasons I have worked as hard as I have and they have always been with me, inspiring me to accomplish what they couldn't," Haley said in a recent phone conversation.

It is also obvious from the book that she continues to have special feelings for her Notre Dame family and the South Bend community.

The nurses at Memorial Hospital and Irish athletic department personnel are especially lauded.

"I kept a journal at school, and I recently read one of my passages from eight months after the accident about how appreciative I was that so many people still cared about me," she said. "And, really, when I am back there, it still seems very much the same."

At 34 and a stay-at-home mom for now with boys 6 and 4, Haley has returned to the swimming pool two or three times a week.

"I've always loved the water," she said. "It is very healing for me."

She no longer tries to conceal the scars from her several operations -- many of them crucial to her quality of life -- that straightened and supported her spine.

"I guess they are my badges of courage," she said. "I'm very proud of what the doctors were able to do."

Haley's mental scars seem few, although she does admit that she has never boarded a bus since the accident more than 16 years ago.

And when her oldest son, James, was set to go on a recent kindergarten field trip, she drove him instead of putting him on the school bus.

"I wasn't ready for that yet," she said. "At some point I will let go, like my parents did for me, and I will let my sons make their own decisions."

Her book, co-written by Bob Schaller with a forward by Lou Holtz, is about her family ... and friendships ... and faith -- and how all that support helped her heal.

Somewhat shy as a teenager, she has slowly grown comfortable with being an inspirational story to others.

"In many ways, I have been given a gift," Haley said.

She doesn't want to waste it.

A board member of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, she was recently in town with Jamie, her college team's student manager, for a swimming reunion.

She will return Sept. 13 -- the day of the Notre Dame-Michigan football game -- and have a book signing at the Hammes Bookstore.

"Both Jamie and I love Notre Dame and the community and even talked at one point about the possibility of moving back there," she said.

As "What Though the Odds" reveals, there are some very sad memories here -- and yet some of the best she could ever have.

Bill Moor's column appears on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail him at bmoor@sbtinfo.com; write him at the South Bend Tribune, 225 W. Colfax Ave., South Bend, IN 46626; or call him at (574) 235-6072.

Haley Scott (now DeMaria) gets a hug from her father, Steve, after she was able to return to swimming competition for Notre Dame. The picture is included in Haley's new book, "What Though the Odds," about her recovery from injuries she suffered in the 1992 bus crash that killed two of her teammates.

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