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Macon college grad who survived wreck that killed mother, sister writes to inspire hope

When Ariel Fortson walked on stage for her graduation this past weekend, it meant more than just a new degree.

MACON, Ga. — Adversity led a Macon college graduate to put pen to paper. When Ariel Fortson walked on stage for her graduation this past weekend, it meant more than just a new degree -- it was a reminder of what she's lost and how far she's come.

"No height nor death could separate our hearts, because even when you feel far off, I will not forget you," Fortson said.

These are words from Ariel Fortson's book "Beyond the Surface." More than 15 years ago, Fortson survived a car wreck.

"A tractor trailer hit our car and it kept going, so our car was flipping over a lot of times and the doors opened. As the doors opened, we all fell out," she said.

Ariel, her mom, dad, and three other siblings were in the car.

"My mom and 4-year-old sister passed away instantly," Fortson said.

The accident happened when Fortson was 9 years old. She lost all of her memory, forcing her to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat all over again. Fortson suffered from head trauma, a punctured lung, and burst ear drums.
She had to repeat the fourth grade.

"Put in different classes in different areas because they thought I needed extra help. I think that was more academically, but mentally, it made me feel like I was really small," she said.

Now, she's the first in her family to go to college. She graduated from Valdosta State University this past weekend with her master's degree in social work. Since then, she says she's made it her mission to not let others feel alone. Even though Fortson doesn't remember her mom, she found old journals her mother left.

"I want to do that for other people. I want to be able to write and leave something behind so they can get to know me, too, if I'm not here anymore," Fortson said.

"Beyond the Surface" is a collection of poems based on Bible stories and inspired by her recovery.

"The little deeper things that we don't necessarily say out loud, that we're struggling with or want," she said.

Ariel is providing hope for others through words.

If you would like to purchase "Beyond the Surface," copies of the book are sold online both at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

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