Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
It was a hot summer day when Danny and Leila Abdallah found out that three of their children had perished in a car accident.
The proud parents of six, Danny and Leila never imagined that the last time they would speak with three of their children was when they gave them permission to walk down a footpath in Sydney, Australia, for ice cream. Minutes later, a car hit their children – ages nine, 12, and 13 – and their lives changed forever.
While the Abdallahs live in Australia, Danny and Leila first met in Lebanon, they told EWTN News In Depth on June 4. From the beginning, they were attracted to each other’s faith.
Danny’s “first question to me was, ‘Do you pray?’ And that was my sign from God,” said Leila, who was raised in a strong Catholic family.
Likewise, Danny valued Leila’s faith. “I always say the biggest decision you make in your life is who you marry, and I know that a woman that loves and fears God will be with you in your darkest hour,” he said.
They married, and later welcomed six beautiful children: Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, and Michael.
“We loved every minute, every second even when we were tired and exhausted we still – we love them so much,” Danny said. “I used to say to myself my day begins when I get home.”
But a terrible tragedy shook their family last year, in February 2020. The family was celebrating a birthday when the parents let their kids walk down the street to buy some ice cream.
“I heard my sister saying to Danny, ‘Are you sure it’s okay for them to walk?’” Leila remembered. “Then he goes, ‘Yeah, they’re only walking on the footpath, what’s gonna happen?”
A few minutes later, something unthinkable did happen. Danny and Leila received a phone call about an accident, and rushed to check on their children.
“What we saw was beyond our comprehension,” Danny remembered when he arrived at the scene. “When I saw them, I realized I had to surrender to God.”
Leila compared it to a “war zone.”
“I started praying when everyone around me was screaming,” she said. “My immediate response, I’m like, ‘Why would God do that to us? No, He can’t take our kids. He wouldn’t do that to us.’”
They later found out more about the tragic accident. A 30-year-old under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs lost control of his car. He drove over the sidewalk at a high speed and hit their children.
“Sometimes you see those movies where your body comes out and you look back into the, over like a top view, of what’s happening. That’s how it felt,” Danny described. “I was in shock and then I just started to fix what I could.”
He grabbed Liana who was conscious, he said. Still, “I felt in my heart that I’d lost my kids that day.”
Arriving at the hospital, four priests met with Danny and Leila and broke the news to them: 13-year-old Antony, Angelina (12), Sienna (9), and their niece, Veronique (11), did not survive.
“I was screaming, I’m like no, no, they didn’t die,” Leila recalled.
Despite their tremendous suffering and pain, the Abdallahs did not hate the driver, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
“I feel sorry for him,” Danny said. “I pray for him. The devil used him as a puppet.”
In a move that shocked the news media, Leila publicly forgave him.
“Forgiveness is something you practice, is something you practice all your life. Then eventually you can forgive on a bigger scale,” she explained. “And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It’s because you deserve to be at peace.”
Her faith, she said, inspired her.
“If Jesus can forgive me, then of course I can forgive the driver,” she stressed. “If He died on the cross for me, then of course I can pray for that driver. Our Christianity, our faith got me to forgive him.”
She offered a special message to viewers of EWTN News In Depth.
“Remember that if Jesus carried his cross, we are meant to carry our cross and follow Him,” the mother concluded. “And on this earth while we’re living, enjoy every moment, hug your family tight, kiss your kids, don’t take anything for granted, because anything can change in the blink of an eye.”