The Tragedy That Is My Gift, 10 Years Later, Reveals A New Gift!

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April 4, 2006, Ten Years Ago Today – A Life-Changing Experience Ripped My World Apart and Started A Process, I Didn’t Know At The Time, Would Alter The Very Person I Knew as Dawn!

If you ask someone to change and they do, it’s only a matter of time they’ll slip back to who they were or perhaps even resent you for asking in the first place.

Change comes from a very deep place within the soul. Desire to change, unfortunately isn’t enough. Even when you make a conscious decision to change a trait within yourself, it’s a subconscious personality and ingrained, learned behavior that you have to battle with.

Much like stopping an addiction, staying on a diet, or letting go of bully tactics…the only lasting change comes from a deeper place. It’s in the realm of psyche rather than control. Similar to instinctual behaviors animals exhibit naturally, human emotions are triggered in an automatic way. Sadly, it usually takes a tragedy or near-death experience thrown upon you or the life of a soulmate torn from your world, to force a significant and permanent change in your being.

Those who knew Dawn before my accident, you would not recognize me as the Dawn I am today. I was an extremely needy, shy person who was lacking direction and gratitude. I blamed everyone for my situations except for the only one responsible – me. I was resistant to trust and believed that in order for me to take care of my own needs or be able to survive, I had to have someone waiting in the wings to rescue me. I avoided quiet time alone, because I was afraid to get too close to ‘who I was.’

I feared discovering an ugly part of my personality that would shame me. I suffocated people around me with my neediness and pushed those who loved me away thinking I didn’t deserve love.

This mindset of feeling unworthy set me up for rationalizing dysfunctional relationships as normal, and I settled for cruel, manipulative attention as anything better than no attention at all. My world started to shrink as I adapted to the demands of others. Trying to be everything to everyone left nothing for myself. Hell, I didn’t even take time to try and know who that ‘self’ was!

Caught up in pent up desperation, I vividly recall stepping outside, outstretched arms towards the sky, shouting: “God, I can’t take this anymore. I’m ready for change; whatever it takes!”

Two days later I was struck head-on while running.  Tossed like a basketball 15 feet in the air, I landed in a fetal position on the bridge. Why I wasn’t thrown into the river below, or land under the tires of another vehicle, I’ll never know.  In a nano-second, everything I thought I knew dissolved and my world shrunk even tighter. It was years later, in retrospect, that it occurred to me that I asked for this accident!


As traumatic, agonizing and time-consuming this tragedy became, it was my gift. It opened my eyes to those people who truly meant something and to those I could leave behind. People I least expected showed up and those I depended on the most abandoned me. I became aware of the strength a young girl can have when driven by love. My daughter, Antonette Bullen, getting ready to graduate high school slept by my hospital bed and stayed up nights when I was home, being awoken from sleep in the middle of the night to attend get me a bedpan. Antonette hung out with me watching ‘Law and Order’ when she should have been on Spring Break with her friends.

The day of my accident fell on my nephew, Raymond’s birthday, so rather than get calls from the family wishing him Happy Birthday, the family was rushing to the emergency room. People I never knew before, cooked and delivered meals, sometimes 15 miles away, just because it was the Christian thing to do. They never preached or forced their beliefs on me. They were satisfied knowing they helped a fellow human in need. Hard not to develop gratitude and faith in such situations.

Running friends visited ’round the clock in the hospital to keep my spirits up, and came to my home, lugging a heavy wheel chair down two flights of steps just to take me out for a walk. Months went by and still, my running friends put on a benefit gala to help me pay my expenses. The day of the event happen to fall during a horrendous storm. With high winds, flooding and electrical outages, I didn’t expect many to show, but I arrived to a full house of smiling and cheering faces! Not one person ever mentioned the extenuating circumstances that I’m sure made their presence there a labor of love.

Months grew into more than a year and I was alone with nothing but my pain and thoughts. My daughter went away to college and I soon became out-of-sight/out-of-mind to my friends, but I believe that was part of God’s plan. I had to be alone and scared to death in order to find the strength that was within me. Day after day, minute to minute, I faced my fears and misinformed beliefs. I questioned every opinion and judgement ever learned; dissected societal values of who and what were important, and identified who I was underneath the skin and ego! I guess you can say I had a rebirth.

For the first time since early childhood I was able to say I not only liked myself, but I knew the person I liked. I knew Dawn at depths most people don’t even know exist yet alone venture. I often wonder why I was saved from death. It would have been difficult, but my daughter was at an age where she could have managed without me. My family had each other and there was no significant other in my existence. But then I met Michael Mooney, and as much as I resisted and put up walls, he remained steadfast and opened my heart in ways no one else has.

Have I touched lives? Absolutely, but we all do. Is my story inspirational? Yes, but I’ve heard many inspiring stories about people who have undergone far more difficult times. Why then? I always believed it would be revealed in time. Perhaps it’s to touch the life of my grand baby, Elaina. To inspire her to clearly SEE who she is and embrace her. I think the Tragedy thats My Gift has also brought me the GIFT of seeing life with NEW eyes through Elaina:)

Dawn Ciccone: Runner Hit by SUV Overcomes Injury With Passion and Perseverance
A Life-Threatening Accident Did Not Stop One Runner From Trying Again – Women’s Running
Marathon runner plowed down while running; lives to share her incredible & inspirational journey!