The Day An Angel Saved My Daughter    Back to Angel Stories   
Angel Story of the Month for January 2007!

By Jane Neill-Hancock

This is an angel story – it is amazing and true.

I am a single mom with three special needs daughters.  My youngest daughter is
PDD or pervasive developmentally disabled – it is like a mild autism.  She always
had been very quiet and calm – then about age eight she suddenly started getting
aggressive and hyperactive.  She would suddenly run off at high speed – which was
really a switch and unexpected.  Her two older sisters had always been a bit
hyperactive and wild, but it was out of character for her.  In the spring of 2000 I had
been really having problems with her, as well as the school.  I had scheduled an
appointment with her pediatric neurologist to talk about medication options, since
up until this point she had not really been on much medication.  For some reason
that I can not fathom, I decided on Memorial Day of that year it would be fun to visit a
park in Boonton, NJ that is by the Rockaway River.  It has a series of waterfalls.  At
the top of the park is a field and playground, a gazebo and a clear pool of water,
then there is a waterfall and a rocky path on the right side of the river that you can
walk down.  As you walk on the path it is not real wide – one side is a sheer drop to
the river and the other side is steep mountainous terrain.  After a hike down that path
you come to a bridge that goes over the river to the other side which you can cross,
or you can continue down the path but it is very rocky and hard to hike down.  Most
people cross over the bridge, walk around on the other side, then come back over
the bridge and walk back up to the top again.  There is a huge glacier rock on the
other side of the bridge and you can walk on the lower side of the river towards the
waterfalls if you wish.   

Looking back on it now I really can not understand what was in my mind that day
thinking this would be a good trip, since there is no fencing or retaining wall between
the path, the sides of the path and the sheer drop down to the river.  The Rockaway
River is known to have a fast current and there have been many drownings over the
years.  I took all three of my daughters and my mother [their grandmother] who at that
time could still walk and hike fairly well, but she was no spring chicken, and I myself
waited to have my oldest daughter when I was in my thirties; so I am an “older” mom
and I am not athletic.  So why I thought it was wise to take three special needs girls,
all who tend to be hyperactive and wild and run off without a warning to this type of
park, I have no clue!

I parked my van by the side of the road at the top of the park and we all piled out.  
The girls spent some time at the playground.  Then we decided to walk down the
path to look at the waterfalls and the glacier rock.  On the walk down, my youngest
daughter would run a bit ahead of us, but stop and wait for us.  I had put a red t-shirt
on her that day, and was glad for that, since I could easily spot her and see her.  She
often went over to the side of the path and looked down at the river.  I kept calling her
back and telling her how dangerous it was.  I tried to stay as close to her as I could,
because as I said above, there is no retaining wall or fencing and it would be easy to
trip, slip or fall down that steep embankment and get hurt in the fall or fall in the river
and be swept away.  

We went down to the bridge, crossed over and spent some time walking around the
glacier rock.  I can not recall if we walked up to the side of the waterfalls or not, but at
some point we decided to go back over the bridge and start back up the path to the
playground above.  At this point my youngest daughter started running way ahead of
us.  The path going back up takes longer and is harder, because of course, you are
up now.  I kept calling to her to stop or come back.  She would disappear
right out of our view and I would call and she would appear for a moment and then
take off again.  I was very distressed and angry with myself that I had thought this
would be a good idea, because there was no way I could physically run ahead and
catch up with her or keep up with her.  I kept calling her back and calling her name.  
At some point we realized she was not coming back when I called, and we could not
see her red t-shirt anywhere.  I started to panic inside, but tried to remain calm as to
not alarm my mother and her sisters.  We came out of the wooded path area to the
top of the waterfalls where there was the clear pool and gazebo.  I looked across the
grassy field area and did not see her.  I looked at the playground and did not see
her.  I stopped at the water pool and spoke to a man who was fishing there with his
children and asked him did a little girl in a red t-shirt come running off the path and
run past them.  He said, "No."  

I realized that was impossible – since the only way she could go was back down
towards us or out of the path to the playground.  There was no other way to go
EXCEPT over the edge and into the river.  I ran quickly back up to my van to see if
possibly she had run by the man and he had not seen her and she had gone to my
van.  No – she was not there.  I checked the playground, the field, the gazebo and
the whole area again.  No child with a red t-shirt.  At this point my mother and my
other daughters were emerging from the path and they looked worried when they
saw my face and my youngest was not with me.  I asked them of course if they had
seen her – had she run past them?  No.

At this moment a lot of horrible thoughts rushed through my mind.  I remember
thinking this must be how people must feel when their child is missing and they have
no idea what happened to the child.  I wondered if I would ever see her again.  I
frantically tried to think of what I could do to find her – where should I look and where
could I go?  My mother was already telling me we should call the police.  Her one
sister was crying and the other one was running toward the playground looking for
her.  I told them to go up by the playground, because from there they could see the
whole top of the park.  I told my mother to sit on the bench, try to relax and just keep
her eyes open looking for her up here.  I would go back down the path and look for
her, backtracking our steps.

I knew I had to pull myself together and go look over to the edge of the ravine by the
side of the path – because logically the only place she could have gone was down
there.  I felt sick to my stomach and almost dizzy with fear.  It was the most horrible
feeling I have ever had in my life.  I walked back down the path, going to the edges
and looking down the steep embankment – looking at the sides and along the river
and calling her name.  I continued this way all the way down the path and got to the
bridge – and did not find my daughter.  Now I was honestly beside myself.  I sat
down against the side of the steep land on the other side of the path and closed my
eyes a moment and prayed.  I asked God to forgive me for my foolishness in
thinking this was a good idea to come here, and asked Him to please keep her safe
wherever she was and I just begged Him to help me find her.  I walked back up
again looking again over the edge and calling.

I got back to the top and looked across the field again towards the playground.  I
could clearly see she was still not there.  My mother was shaking her head and I
could see she was real upset.  I decided to turn back again and go down the path
one more time, then I would have to call the police.  I realized now that she probably
had fallen over the side and been swept away by the river.  It could easily have
happened with the way she was running and taking off and rushing over to the side
to look over the edge.  But I knew I had to go down one more time and check.

I walked down the path the same way as I had before, walking and calling, looking
over the edge and calling again.  I got almost down to the bridge when I suddenly
saw my daughter come running from the path below the bridge.  She was crying and
wet and calling my name.  I was so happy to see her, that I did not at the time realize
it made no sense that she would be coming from the opposite direction of where we
all had walked, and where she had been running
away from the last time I saw her.   I
just grabbed her and held her and we sat down against the steep side ground and
cried and held each other and cried and laughed and cried.  I kept telling her I loved
her and I was so happy she was OK.

Being mildly autistic and not always able to express herself well, I was not sure what
kind of answers I would get – but of course I had to ask her.  I asked her, “Where in
the world did you go?  Mommy could not find you – I was so worried!  Where were
you?”   She answered me, “I fell down by the water.”  I knew that was impossible, yet
I could see and feel she was wet – so I asked her, “Where were you?”   She said
again, “I fell down by the water.”   She then said, “I was so afraid and I fell so far,
Mommy.”   I just looked at her in disbelief, and I remembered when I had last seen
her running up the path she was by the steepest area of the path.   I did not know
what to say or how this could have happened, that she would still be OK and sitting
with me.  I said to her, “How did you get back up here on the path then honey?”  She
looked at me and said, “Mommy, the angel came and picked me up and flew me to
safety.”    I do not recall now what I said – maybe, "What?" or "How?" but I just held
her, cried and thanked God with all my heart.

When we finally came out of the path, her sisters came running and grabbed her and
hugged her and my mother was crying with relief.  When I told my mother what she
had said, my mother’s mouth dropped open and she said nothing.  But then in the
van when driving home my mother said to me, “You realize that the only explanation
of where she was is that she fell down by the river.  She came running up to you from
below where we all walked and she was running ahead of us.  There is no way she
could have gotten down below us, since if she had run back down that way she
would have run past us.  And we did not see her anyway.  The only way she could
have gotten down below us is if she
fell down below us...and there is no humanly
possible way she could have climbed back up to the path.  You know that…”

Later that night when I was tucking my daughter in bed, I asked her again about what
had happened at the park.  She looked at me innocently and said, “Mommy, I said I
fell real far down by the water.”  I asked her again how did she get back up to the
path.  Quite matter of factly she said, “Mommy, I told you, the angel came and picked
me up and flew me to safety.”   I asked her, “What did the angel look like?”   She
said, “She had blond hair and she was all white.”  I asked her if the angel was big or
little.  My daughter looked at me and smiled and said, “She was big Mommy...she
picked me up.”    I asked her if she had been hurt – she said, “I hurt all over and I felt
sick.  But then the angel came and I felt warm and all better.”

I know God sent an angel that day to help and save my daughter.  She probably
would have died and/or drowned.  My foolishness and lack of judgement that day to
even attempt such a day trip almost cost my daughter her life; but God had mercy on
her and was there for her when I could not be.  I am eternally grateful.  And we have
not gone back to that park.

Now that my daughter is 14 years old, if I ask her about it, she does not seem to
remember.  I do not know if it is because of her disability or because the incident
was so frightening to her, she has blocked it out of her mind.  However, over her bed
is a poster I framed of an angel floating in the air over a waterfall.  I had bought it
years before I even had my daughter.  However, one day when going through
pictures and photos, I found it and when my daughter saw it, she said, “Mommy, that
is my painting, please put that in my room.”  It is over her bed and it is beautiful, but
of course it has so much more meaning to me and probably also to her, even if she
can not recall in detail why.

I have not told too many people about this story because most people do not believe
in angelic intervention, and it sounds so far fetched.  But I know it happened – I went
through it and experienced it.  To me it is a dramatic reminder how God cares for
those who are not able to care for themselves and He protects and rescues us.  He
saved my daughter that day and brought her back to me whole, with one of His

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