PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chaos was unfolding in Frankford seven years ago. Eight passengers were killed and over 200 injured when an Amtrak train crashed. One survivor is on a mission of giving back.
“The sound of my scream is the last thing I remember,” Geralyn Ritter said.READ MORE: Inflation Slowed In July, Showing Fed's Rate Hikes Are Working
The scream was from the first car of the Amtrak train that was demolished.
“I do believe I was thrown from the train,” Ritter said.
Ritter was gravely injured. Her pelvis shattered, ribs crushed.
“My stomach was up above my heart. My colon was under my armpit,” Ritter said. “I broke several vertebrae in my neck and my back, but broke them in such a way that I was not paralyzed.”
'The sound of my scream is the last thing I remember."
— CBS Philly (@CBSPhilly) May 12, 2022
Seven years later, she has a flood of memories when visiting Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
“It brings up mixed feelings,” Ritter said.
Here, she was reunited with the team and doctor who saved her life.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Ritter said.
Dr. Samir Mehta is the chief of orthopedic trauma.
“She looks great. She’s far exceeded my expectations in terms of her recovery with this injury,” Mehta said.
After 31 surgical procedures, Ritter, who’s 53 now, is back to work but will always be dealing with the physical and emotional scars from the crash.READ MORE: Some Philadelphia Wawas Will No Longer Be Open 24 Hours
“It’s never over,” Ritter said. “I am a different person inside and out.”
Her family, also traumatized, searched for her after the accident. With no identification, Ritter was known as Jane Doe in hospitals.
“They went to every hospital in Philadelphia,” Ritter said. “Nobody could find me. My sons were seeing the news evolve and they kept texting my husband, ‘you have to find her, I need my mom, Dad. People are dead. Dad, have you found her?’ And reading those texts later, it still breaks my heart.”
The emotional scars run deep, surviving when eight people died, enduring years of pain and depression, and now, Ritter has emerged with clarity and perspective.
“The accident has left me with a very keen perspective and ability to focus on the things that really matter in life,” Ritter said.
She’s written a book called “Bone By Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing.”
“My message is one of hope,” Ritter said. “But also realistic hope.”
She’s also making a multi-year contribution to Penn.
“To support an embedded social worker, behavioral counselor, to help trauma patients and their caregivers with understanding their situation,” Ritter said. “Like me, their life changes in an instant.”
“Geralyn has taken something that was a tragedy and has made it into something that is going to have an impact,” Mehta said. “She’s going to have a legacy. Absolutely.”
A legacy of giving back and survival against all odds.
“And that you can’t explain it other than just an extraordinary gift of grace,” Ritter said.MORE NEWS: Sesame Place Announces Changes To Diversity Programs After Recent High-Profile Racial Incidents
Proceeds from Ritter’s book will go to the American Trauma Society. The book comes out in June, and you can preorder here.