Was missing her flight divine intervention?

She couldn't get to Commencement but might have saved a life

Tracy Anderson had carefully planned the trip to celebrate her rugged personal journey to a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

She secured a budget airline ticket from Chicago, with a stop in Las Vegas, to Phoenix, where she found a cute B & B with a pool. She had ordered her cap and gown from Grand Canyon University for the Oct. 13 Commencement ceremony.

“I’m so excited. Other than having children, it’s my biggest accomplishment,” said Anderson, who took the three-hour drive to arrive early at O’Hare International Airport by 2 a.m. for her 5:34 a.m. flight.

But this is how she describes what happened next, a day she won’t soon forget:

“I’m sitting there at the gate, and I realize I don’t have my cap or gown with me.”

They were left in her car in distant economy parking lot H, a long way back through security, back through the ticketing area, back on the shuttle. The ticket agent told Anderson that she still had enough time.

Anderson took an elevator, walked to an escalator, lugged her carry-on, out of breath and flagged down a shuttle. Wrong shuttle. That’s for hotels. She took an elevator, walked ... finally, the shuttle she needed. The door opened.

Tracy Anderson

“I’m trying to get to parking lot H,” she told the driver.

“That’s not me,” the driver said.

The woman looked downright mad but then saw Anderson’s distraught face.

“Go ahead and get in,” she said, disgusted.

The shuttle bus took off on a busy airport road. Then stopped dead.

“She is pumping on the gas. She hits the steering wheel and says some choice words,” Anderson remembers. “I’m sitting right behind her, and I hear her start to cry. I look at my watch. I know I’m not going to make it, so I start to silently cry, too.”

The driver turns around, seeing them both crying, and says she is so sorry, that it was obvious she ruined her plans and asked, “Where were you going?”

“Well, I was flying to Arizona for graduation, and I forgot my cap and gown in the car,” she told her.

“So I did ruin your day.”

She rested her head on the steering wheel.

“You know, I just wish God would have loved me enough to not let me wake up.”

Anderson, trained in psychology, an 18-year court advocate for children in troubled homes, stopped crying.

“That hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said. “I felt like I was going through a crisis and was being self-centered. At that moment it was no longer about me, and I didn’t care if I made it to Arizona or not.”

Anderson began to talk to the woman, who she learned had a letter in her pocket explaining how she would end her life. What Anderson said didn’t just come from psychology textbooks.

“I have been at that point. I have attempted to take my life, and I know how dark it is,” Anderson said.

She endured family violence and dysfunction, became a high school felon and continued to suffer trauma in early adulthood and a first marriage.

“I raised my son myself, and that is when I started to question if there was a God and why He would allow me to go through so much,” he said. “That’s when you’ve got to grow up and realize you created a bit of the crisis. Do I make excuses or change?”

She went to counseling at a woman’s shelter, began education to become a legal advocate for children, and six years ago turned her life over to Christ.

Anderson found GCU by accident, scrolling the web. She began to take online courses toward a degree in psychology with an emphasis in forensic psychology. And it was in one of her classes on understanding trauma that she confronted the demons of her past.

She learned that past trauma can return to haunt you, set off by triggers. She started going to counseling again, thanks to GCU instructors who told her it was OK to take care of herself and who she credits for “saving my life.”

Now she felt God put her on that shuttle bus to help someone else.

“I have to tell you,” she remembers telling the woman, “your life is important. You have a purpose. I wish you were not discouraged with life and don’t wish for another day. I hope you stop and realize your worth is so much.”

“I don’ t believe that,” the driver said.

I was once there, too, and I found help and I found God.

Tracy Anderson

They talked more.

The woman stopped crying and, knowing Anderson’s background, finally asked if she thought it was wrong to admit herself into a mental health facility.

She said it wasn’t, and the shuttle driver picked up the phone to call a friend to pick her up and dispatch to find a new bus and driver.

Anderson watched her walk away and her trip vanish, too, but it didn’t matter. She could attend a Commencement ceremony later in the year, GCU assured her, and she learned something valuable.

“That lady has been on my mind quite a bit,” she said. “I have kept praying for her. She taught me a valuable thing about being aware of other people’s suffering.”

She doesn’t know if what she made a difference, not wanting to take credit for “God’s work,” the reason she was on the bus that morning, and for a woman who she said deserves the credit for calling for help.

“I hope that God allows us to run into each other again. I hope that she is not ashamed. I hope she feels her worth and one day can help someone in that situation,” Anderson said.

“I was once there, too, and I found help and I found God. I think that’s how this whole thing works.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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Bible Verse

From (Christ) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16)

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