Daily Voice this week is running down some of the top stories of 2015. Here is one of the stories that left a big impression on us.
PATERSON, N.J. — Fifteen months ago Closter resident Erica Tait fell off a cliff while hiking and broke her spinal cord, pelvis, ribs, shattered her arm, punctured her lung, and suffered a severe concussion.
Next week, Tait is taking a trip up to Acadia National Park in Maine, where she will hike up Cadillac Mountain and watch the sunrise.
"I'm not scared at all," Tait, 23, said of the impending climb. "I've actually become much more adventurous. I’m safe about everything but I also know what I can do and what I can’t do."
Tait's near-death experience has given her a new lease on life. She says she is now more physically active than ever before.
"As soon as I got out of a wheelchair I was fine," said Tait. "It really is mind over matter. I’ve heard that saying so many times and I’ve never really understood it until now but it is a true statement."
Tait is currently pursuing her Master's degree in social work at Rutgers. As part of her studies, she works as a therapist for homeless people with substance abuse issues at the Paterson YMCA.
She says her accident has helped her be more effective in her work.
"I’ve always felt the need to help people was something that was always in me. But having a near-death experience changed everything," Tait said. "I woke up in hospital a very different person. I was able to see people clearly, empathize with people.
"When you wake up every morning and are grateful just for being able to breath it really changes your outlook on everything else," Tait added.
Tait will graduate in May of 2017 and has plans to join the Peace Corps. In the future she would like to work for the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and eventually open her own social work agency.
Asked for advice that helped her get through her ordeal, Tait said to "love yourself."
"I think everything else comes after loving yourself. Having a deep awareness of yourself and loving every single part of you. From there everything follows."
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