Woman listens to inner voice, saves husband's life

BRICK, N.J. — For hours that day, Michelle Silverman couldn't shake the feeling that she should stay home from work. It was unusual, but the feeling — and the voice — was insistent.

“It went through my head, ’You need to be home. You need to be home,’” Michelle said.

Her husband, Gene, 69, has Parkinson’s, which causes near-constant neck pain and challenges his ability to move. He often spends afternoons tipped back in his cherished and well-worn recliner, joined by his dog, Charlie.

Michelle said she normally wouldn’t have considered taking off from work. Since Gene's diagnosis six years ago, Michelle, 57, has supported the household by working multiple jobs, every day, from morning to evening.

But on Sept. 24, the feeling wouldn’t leave.

It lifted a little when she called out from work. But when she thought about joining Gene and resting at home, that didn't feel quite right, either. 

Instead, the couple decided to get the car oil changed and then have lunch.

Two hours later, a silver 1989 Toyota Camry crashed through the front of their house, demolishing Gene's recliner and all of the items in the living room.

It likely would have struck Gene and Charlie, too, had Michelle Silverman not listened to that insistent voice.

"What if Gene had been home?" Michelle asked.

It's a question Michelle has asked herself and neighbors many times. For reasons she can't quite explain, instead of going to work the day of the crash, she took Gene to run errands. They left Charlie home.

When Michelle and Gene returned to their normally quiet neighborhood, they found police cars flanking the street and their driveway. They were confused, momentarily. Then they saw the massive hole in the front of their home.

They wept.

Police say the Silverman's neighbors, Gregory Wolff, 66, and his mother, Anne, 92, were starting to pull out head-first out of their driveway, across the street from the Silverman's home. They told police the accelerator on their car stuck, according to Capt. Vincent Pacitti of the Brick Township Police Department.

The car shot across the driveway, the road, the front yard and through the Silverman's living room before finally coming to a stop on the back patio.

When an officer checked the car at the scene, it appeared to be operating fine, Pacitti said. Gregory Wolff, the driver, hasn't been cited as a result of the incident. The Wolffs, who were not injured in the crash, declined to comment.

Michelle said she and Gene harbor no resentment toward the Wolffs.

“It was just an accident,” she said, standing along the back of the home in early October. Wooden planks were nailed to the front door and windows, and a glaring red sign barred entry. She took comfort knowing Charlie, the family's 10-year-old dog, was rescued.

Everything destroyed in the home was significant, Michelle said. She had winnowed away clutter each time she and Gene moved. In addition to Gene's recliner, the car crushed two decades of family photos, a long-kept grand piano, a custom-made armoire and a treasured lamp.

“What was left were the treasures,” she said.

Still, she said it’s not the most important thing. She values the safety of her family first.

She repeated it often.

“It’s just stuff.”

Michelle chalked the day up to a freak accident. If there ever was a moment in her life she said she could classify as an act of divine intervention, this incident would be it.

"I really believe that God talks to us and tells us, or our angels do, and we should pay attention," said Michelle, who is Catholic. Her husband is Jewish.

After the crash, Michelle works harder than ever. She has to, to recover some semblance of her old life, and to care for Gene.

Most days, she starts with her hairdressing job. Then it’s on to taking care of senior citizens. She’ll fit in helping friends and neighbors with small tasks, if she has time.

“I’m moved (by) her,” said friend Marlene Rosenberg. “The kind of person she is, and all that she does.”

Rosenberg then quoted a passage from the Book of Habbakuk, part of the Hebrew Bible: "God has a sense of timing about everything."

Gene, Michelle said, is stressed about losing their old home.

“He’s very upset,” Michelle said.

She said stress worsens Gene's condition, and he is suffering from heightened neck cramps and balance issues.

Life is harder than she’d like at the moment. But she said she hopes to move back into their old house, repaired, in a couple of months.

Despite some loss, she speaks frequently and cheerfully of all she still has.

She’s thankful for Gene and her three children, Greg, Kimberly, and Alana. She's thankful her dog Charlie is safe.

And she's especially thankful she listened to her intuition that day, and to that nagging feeling that wouldn't leave.

It saved her and Gene.

"Just listen to what a voice in your head is telling you," Michelle said. "I did."

Follow Katie Park and Andrew Ford on Twitter: @kathspark and @AndrewFordNews


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