| Forever Grateful |

Tireless Thanks 

They couldn’t be saying that my little girl was going to die — and that it was my fault?

As told by Levi Millman to Malkie Schulman

"Shana,” I called to my three-year-old as I made my way around the car. “Shana?”

I didn’t see her — until I looked down and spotted her bright orange jacket, wavy blonde hair, and two huge O-shaped blue eyes glazed in fear and pain. She was pinned beneath the tire of a white minivan that was backing out next to our car.

My little girl was seconds away from being crushed.

“Stop backing out — move up!” I screamed, frantically waving my hands in a forward motion.

The driver heard me, saw me — thankfully — and slowly inched the car forward as I ran to pull Shana out from under the tire. (I learned afterward that had the parking lot been paved with asphalt, I would not have been able to do so; the sand and gravel ground allowed for a flexible, cushioning effect.)


It was Hoshana Rabbah 2000. We had stopped at a farm stand for fresh fruits and vegetables on the way to a park not far from our home in Chicago, Illinois. When my wife was just about finished paying, I went ahead to load Shana and 18-month-old Rachel into the car. I buckled Rachel in, assuming Shana was still standing at my side, waiting to be put into her car seat. But Shana had gone around the car to play with the sand and gravel, and when I turned to pick her up and didn’t see her, I figured she must have walked to the other side. She did — but disaster struck.

“Run to the phone booth — call 911!” ordered a woman I didn’t know, racing over as she dropped the watermelon she was lugging. She pointed me to the phone at the edge of the parking lot (this was pre-cell phone days). “I’ll bring her into the store.”

My wife later told me this woman had been standing behind her in line. When my wife, not realizing I had already gone to the parking lot with the kids, turned to hand me the watermelon she bought, this kind stranger — a pediatric nurse, as it “happened” to be — offered to bring it to me, even though she was parked elsewhere.

In the store, Shana stopped breathing and needed to be resuscitated twice by the nurse. She was no longer conscious. Still, she was alive.


A few minutes after I called, an ambulance raced up, lights blazing and sirens blaring. We were close to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the premier hospital for trauma in the area, and soon my wife and I were in the emergency room with Shana. (My sister-in-law who lived nearby had come for Rachel.)

The doctors weren’t hopeful.

“Her lung is collapsed,” they told us grimly after the initial X-ray. “There’s air under her diaphragm, it’s severely damaged. We don’t know if there’s anything we can do for her.”

You know how your mind goes blank when the shock is so great? That’s how I felt hearing the doctors speak. They were mouthing words, but I couldn’t make sense of them. They couldn’t be saying that my little girl was going to die — and that it was my fault?


Brain fuzzy, mind numb, I called my parents and told them what happened. They were close to Rav Avraham Pam and his wife. Maybe they can call Rav Pam for a brachah, I thought.

As I was talking to my mother, tripping over my words, her other phone rang. It was Rebbetzin Pam, “Just calling to say hello.” I heard my mother quickly explaining the situation, and soon Rav Pam was on the phone, giving a heartfelt blessing full of warmth and love.

As I hung up the phone, the doctors returned from a more extensive round of testing.

“Your daughter’s lungs and diaphragm are intact,” they said. “We made a mistake. She won’t need surgery, and she’ll recover completely.”

And that was it. Shana stayed in the hospital under observation for two days until after Simchas Torah, and then we took our healthy little girl home.


This took place more than 20 years ago, but we will never forget it. Come Hoshana Rabbah, we make a seudas hoda’ah in our succah in Brooklyn, where we now live, commemorating the miracle of Shana’s survival. Shana, who only vaguely remembers the incident, joins with her husband and her two adorable little girls. We sing songs of gratitude and praise to the Master of the World who saved her, and recount, in full detail, the story of Shana’s salvation, describing the hidden and open miracles. It is an occasion we hold dear, and every year, our love and gratitude to Hashem gets stronger as we recall His great kindness to us and our daughter.


Levi Millman is an industry consultant for large high-tech companies. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 888)

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