Letters From Pamela

The Beginning of a Long Ride

Pamela Rittenhouse

May 16, 2012

This letter is to those who were there with me 18 years ago when I nearly lost my life. On May 14, 1994, I was signed up to ride with the other members of the bicycling team from WJXT-TV for a ride that was to begin in Jacksonville Beach, travel to St. Augustine and return. I never made it to the end of that ride. To my family and friends, this is a letter of gratitude for the support that helped me find my way back from a truly terrible accident. It’s also a letter to me to remind myself of how blessed I am because of what I learned on a journey that was supposed to cover approximately 100 miles. In fact, it took me much, much further.

What I Remember That Day

Memory is a funny thing. Things that are not vital to us can be forgotten entirely. Those events that are definite landmarks in our lives remain unforgotten; more so, they maintain the feeling of just having happened. I can remember May 14, 1994 like it was yesterday. Each year since then, I always experience the same feeling leading up to the anniversary of my nearly-fatal accident. In the days of late April and early May, I experience the feeling that something big and difficult, a challenge to be reckoned with is coming for me. As I look back on my memories of that day 18 years ago, I remember that it seemed so normal. What I was worried about was whether I could keep up with the friends from work on this ride. Would I have to drop back? Would I be embarrassed by a lack of strength? If only I had known those were not what I had to worry about. What I needed to worry about was the hole on A1A that would throw me forward over the handlebars and put my life in jeopardy. It happened 25 miles into the route. I don’t remember the moment, and I am so glad that I do not. I believe God protects us from moments He knows we could not handle. That moment was one of them.

What I Know Now

I am God’s child. I know that He was with me that day and in the many days that followed as I faced the fear of a major head injury and all that went with it. I had a number of injuries after being thrown to the asphalt. I had a broken jawbone, broken collarbone, a head injury that made my left foot drop and a subarrachnoid hematoma that closed my right eye entirely. This would be bad for anybody. For a woman who made her living as a consumer reporter on Jacksonville TV station WJXT-TV with two small children who depended on her for support, it was very problematic. What I understand now is that God makes us amazingly strong. Most of us never know that because nothing happens to us that really makes it necessary for us to reach deep into our inner resources. But that did happen to me. And what I learned in the months that followed was that God gave me amazing tools to use. All I had to do was reach down and pull them out. They were there for me. I thank God for putting them there. And I thank the family and friends who loved me through this time. They kept my spirits up so that I actually believed there was a reason to go and find those tools inside me. What I experienced was a blast of amazement in what I could do if I just put my mind to it. And I always understood this was NOT unique to me. It is there in any of us. If something horrible happens to us, everything we need to overcome it is right there inside us. We just have to believe that it is there, go get it and use it.

What Helped Me Learn

I remember that a part of my days at home as I recovered included calls from staff within the newsroom at WJXT-TV, including then-news director, Nancy Shafran. She would ask me about what I was experiencing, and I would share my thoughts with her. One day, she called me and told me that she thought the things I was experiencing could help and inspire others. She asked me if I would be willing to be a part of a weekly series of reports that would allow our viewers to follow me on my journey back to my life. We would call the series, ‘Coming Back.’ We agreed that the series would be totally honest. That was really the only parameter — honesty. I thank Nancy so much for the idea of the series. I will always wonder if she knew who would benefit the most from the series. Me.

With this letter, I attach the very first of those ‘Coming Back’ pieces. There are 12 reports in all. Just as we did 18 years ago, we will post each of the segments weekly. I know that watching them will benefit me. I will be reminded of how lucky I am to be here. I hope and pray that perhaps someone else who faces an equally enormous challenge will find comfort, hope and strength from my story. If you are one of those people who have always had such a normal life and suddenly find yourself in a uniquely challenging place, know this. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from finding your way back. I did. And that means that you can, too.