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Parents lose three children to tragic accident: ‘If Jesus can forgive me, I can forgive’

By Katie Yoder for CNA

Danny and Leila Abdallah (Image: EWTN News In Depth)

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.”

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  1. I’m so touched with your strong faith and the amount of the love you both have. Because this love is what will get you through this and has made you forgive. I want that and to be in that level of my faith. God love you and your family.

  2. Great words to remember, “And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It’s because you deserve to be at peace.”

    • Dear Danny and Leila, my wife and I have raised six children as well in the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, not all of them are practicing Catholics. I had a friend that once told me that he’d rather lose his children in deaths rather than they abandon their faith and lose their soul in Hell. That’s tough love and I trust in Jesus that you will someday be reunited to your children in the kingdom of God. May His Peace be with you.

  3. This couple has, very very strong faith…. otherwise they would not even think of forgiveness…. They love God and know their children have been a gift from Him. I pray for them that God will continue to give them, love,strength, comfort and peace in all of their days ahead. Their children are with them in other ways,other than physically.May God bless them always.

  4. I somewhat feel their pain and certainly know their efforts to forgive. When I was 17, my father was killed by a drunk 17yr old doing in excess of 100mph through red lights in a 40mph zone. The state wished to prosecute him as an adult, but the family made it plain we would not object to a youthful offender trial. The state thanked us and proceeded with the adult trial, where he was convicted of 2nd Deg Manslaughter, and was released with time served and a convicted felon. I always prayed for him that he would turn out OK.

    He did not, went on to have a life consisting of one failure after another, ranging from domestic calls to alcohol/drug arrests, found out when he was trying to regain his full rights to get a pistol for a security guard job at the age of circa 50, which was denied by the parole board. He died within 5yrs of cancer after that.

    I pray he was contrite and desiring of forgiveness before he passed on.

    I will not know the effects of these prayers on others until I too stand before God, but certainly know the prayers have greatly aided me in not being consumed with strife and anger in this life, both regarding this and another death in the family. I can still hope to see God, and that is all which matters here or the hereafter.

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