After surviving a near-death car crash on a desolate highway in Wyoming at age 22, Glenview native Elizabeth Antonucci spent nearly a decade working to heal both the physical and emotional wounds she sustained that fateful night in 2007.
Now determined to share her story of recovery and self-awareness, Antonucci, 31, has penned and self-published the memoir, Fractured: My Journey Back from Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way, to be celebrated at a book launch and signing on August 17 from 4:30-7 p.m. at Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar at The Glen.
“Writing for me has been a form of therapy,” said Antonucci, who studied theatre at Loyola Marymount College in Los Angeles and worked as a Chicago-based actress before relocating to California in 2016. “Shortly after my accident, I began writing down memories, but it wasn’t until 2015 that I began creating the outline for a book.”
On the night of Antonucci’s accident, she and three other aspiring young college-age actors were traveling back to Los Angeles after a week researching roles for an upcoming play. The car’s driver fell asleep briefly and drifted into oncoming traffic, causing a head-on collision, whereby Antonucci was thrown 50 feet from the vehicle’s sunroof.
Suffering a broken neck, nose, shoulder, shoulder blade, arm, and ankle, Antonucci lay on the side of the road for two hours while police and emergency personnel struggled pinpoint the car’s remote location. One of her fellow passengers did not survive his injuries; he died after being airlifted with Antonucci to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah.
After multiple surgeries and years of physical therapy, Antonucci said she’s still contending with her injuries, as well as painful flashbacks of the accident.
“Every year my back goes out right around the time of the accident and I’ll be sidelined for a month,” said Antonucci. “It took me a long time to get back into a car, and even now, I prefer to be the driver… always.”
Nevertheless, Antonucci believes her near fatal accident gave her a once-in-a- life opportunity to start fresh and rebuild many facets of her life. Fractured delves not only into the events surrounding her crash and recovery; there are chapters devoted to Antonucci’s battle to overcome an eating disorder, her traumatic experience with date rape as a freshman in college, her struggles to move past a string of relationships with “bad boys,” and the constant pressure she felt to look and behave a certain way.
“I had always thrived on the drama of life,” said Antonucci. “The accident helped me realize, that person wasn’t who I wanted to be. I started asking, ‘Where in my life do I need to heal myself?’”
Since the crash, Antonucci has taken proactive steps to bring joy into her life, whether it was seeking the help of a spiritual medium to find closure after her accident, becoming a dog mom to her beloved Maltipoo puppy, “Maddy,” taking up ballroom dancing, or founding the Step Up Chicago Playwrights theater company, Elizabeth Antonucci has chosen to embrace every moment of her second chance.
“By sharing the events in Fractured, I want to show that living an authentic life is the key to self-acceptance and true happiness. Life is just oh so beautiful when you love yourself,” writes Antonucci on her website.
As a longtime Glenview resident who attended services at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) and graduated from Glenbrook South High School, Antonucci says her “Fractured” book launch is a homecoming of sorts – an intimate gathering of friends loved ones who steadfastly supported her during the long road back to health.
“The community here really rallied behind me after my accident,” said Antonucci.
“OPH held a candlelight vigil the night after my car crash and former GBS teachers called to check on me in the weeks and months that followed.”
And although Antonucci hasn’t nailed down which passages she’ll read from her book, she says she’ll likely choose sections recounting the wacky hallucinations she experienced while fading in and out of consciousness during her month-long hospital stay.
“People seem to find that chapter amusing,” chuckled Antonucci.
Now living in Clovis, California with her fiancé, Brian, Antonucci sits on the Board of West Fresno Family Resource Center, volunteers at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California, and works as a real estate agent. She hopes to return to her native Glenview at some point in the future to be near her close-knit family, but also plans to keep writing.
‘I’m trying to figure out what my next book will be,” said Antonucci. “Once you find your true voice, the question becomes, how do you continue using it?”
“Fractured: My Journey Back from Death and the Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way,” can be purchased on amazon.com. For more information about Elizabeth Antonucci, visit www.elizabethantonucci.com.