Miracles do happen – just ask Arika Stovall.
She and her boyfriend, Hunter Hanks, were driving to Tennessee from Florida just after the new year when their car drifted off the road, crashing into a pillar on a bridge while they were going 85 miles per hour.
Against all odds, both survived the accident with relatively minor injuries, and a photo of the two in the wake of the crash, smiling into each other’s eyes – neck braces and all – has been making its way across the Internet.
The crash could have killed them both, Stovall wrote in an emotional post on Facebook.
Just three seconds after their car started to drift, it hit a pole straight-on – directly in the car’s center – so neither Stovall or Hanks felt the full impact. There were no broken bones, no internal damage and neither of them had concussions that lasted longer than a day.
“I’m overwhelmed at how little damage was done to Hunter and I in a wreck that should have chopped our bodies in half,” she wrote. “Only that after an accident that paramedics wonder how we didn’t die instantly and a truck that looks like it’s been through a tree grinder.”
Despite the positive outcome, Stovall says Hanks was beating himself up over the situation, which she was quick to shut down, saying his quick-thinking, as well as his care for her, “saved my life.”
Both Hanks and Stovall felt their was something other-worldly about their experience: Stovall said she saw a man, “bright with a big white beard,” who told her there was an ambulance coming for them. Moments later, the paramedics arrived.
After they were admitted to the hospital, the two constantly were asking when they could see one another.
“Despite the constant reassurance that the other was okay, we needed to see it for ourselves,” Stovall tells PEOPLE.
Her gratitude, as well as the couple’s love for each other, was evident in the image she posted to Facebook. The photo, snapped by her friend, captures the first moment Stovall and Hanks saw one other after the accident. Stovall was still confined to her hospital bed, and expected that her boyfriend was as well.
“I just remembered Hunter was in front of me, smiling, stable and definitely not in the state he was the last time I saw him,” she tells PEOPLE. “It was a moment of peace. Nothing else mattered to us besides the fact that the other was okay.”
The picture has now been shared over 90,000 times.
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“When we were both lying in our beds in the ER, he found a way to come protect my heart and give me a hug,” Stovall says of the moment that was captured in the photo. “Lord knows I needed that just as much as my safety.”
Hanks also posted a lengthy message on Facebook, saying how touched the two of them have been from the outpouring of support following their accident.
“You always wonder to yourself that if something happened, how many people would actually care and come to your side and be there for you?” he wrote. “Well I know Arika and I got our answer and it’s been truly overwhelming. I’ve had to fight back emotions nonstop still just talking about it.”