On February 18th, Red Bank Catholic students attended a powerful and unique safe driving presentation in the RBC Broad St. Auditorium. Gabe Hurley, a twenty-nine year old man shared with them the story of a tragic accident that changed his life forever.
In June of 2009, Hurley, a talented musician and recent college graduate with a promising new job, was getting ready to head to Las Vegas for a trip with his friends. Then in an instant everything changed. He was driving down Oak Tree Rd. in Edison, when a 17-year old boy driving with his two week old license lost control of his car, swerved into the oncoming traffic and hit Hurley head-on. The impact was so great that the air compressor from the teen’s car came out of the hood and went through Hurley’s windshield hitting him directly in the face. Hurley was left near death with severe injuries to his head and face.
After two months in the hospital and 12 reconstructive surgeries, Hurley lost both of his eyes but managed to survive the horrible accident. Throughout his ordeal he was determined to maintain a positive attitude and as soon as he was able, to educate teenagers about safe driving and about the lessons he learned as a result of his life-changing experience.
While sharing his story with the RBC students, Hurley showed them photos of his actual injuries along with diagnostic images. He explained how driving is a responsibility, and every time they get behind the wheel they need to be aware of that. They need to be aware that every decision they make while driving can potentially have a severe and permanent effect on themselves or someone else.
Hurley’s presentation also focused on how, as a result of a horrific accident, his perspective on life has changed in a positive way. His hope is to share this message with as many teens as possible so they too may benefit from his experience: “that driver took my sight, my smell, my independence and my appearance, but he won’t take my future. I still have my life which is a gift.”
Hurley explained how he found a sense of purpose. He also told the students “never to let the fear of failure prohibit you from opportunities in life.”
Over the past few years, Hurley has shared his message with students in many high schools in the area. Recently the Nikhil Badlani Foundation honored Hurley with their “Annual Inspiration Award.” The Foundation was established in the memory of Nikhil Badlani, an eleven year old boy who was killed by a distracted driver.
Hurley is an accomplished guitarist and his band has played venues including the Sterling Ballroom and the Stone Pony. Before taking questions from the students, he impressed everyone with an amazing electric guitar medley of songs by artists ranging from Mozart to Michael Jackson to Axel Rose.
Mrs. Kathleen Booth, moderator of the RBC “Hot Topics” Club which arranged the event, concluded by saying “we are so happy to be able to meet this extraordinary young man. You are defined by how you handle things that happen to you in your life. We are all going to be better people because of this.”