Woman learns of her miracle birth when her mother died in 1957 bus crash
HAMPTON — Milagros Abad always wondered why she was named “miracle” in Spanish.
This summer, at the age of 53, she found out and the revelation has changed her life.
Abad, who is an administrative assistant with Liberty Estates Apartments on Cunningham Drive in Hampton, had been told her mother died in a bus accident in Puerto Rico in 1957. But her family left out the dramatic details of her birth.
It took an e-mail five decades later and from the daughter of the man who saved her life in the aftermath of the crash for her to realize the truth.
On March 11, 1957, a bus hit a car in the town of Aibonito in Puerto Rico and crashed into a ravine, killing three or four people, according to accounts. Don Julio Cruz who lived nearby, ran to the ravine and saw dead and wounded passengers. Then he heard what sounded like the crying of a new born baby.
Carmen Soto-Abad was eight months pregnant and had been en route to the hospital for a routine check-up when she was run over by the bus and killed.
Cruz found her on the ground. Her stomach was ripped open and the baby was still alive inside her. Cruz reached in, cut the umbilical cord with his finger and rescued the infant.
Abad said Thursday she knew her mother had died and that she was born prematurely and taken to a hospital in New York, but her family shielded her from the circumstances of her birth.
“I believe they were trying to protect me and raise me as a regular child in the Spanish community, because this was a big story to them,” she said.
“I was adopted by my grandmother. All I knew was that my mother had died in a bus accident on the way to a check up at the hospital,” she said.
Abad grew up in the Bronx and didn’t return to Puerto Rico until she was 10. But the circumstances of her birth remained a mystery.
“Nobody talked much about it, other than the fact it was an accident,” she said.
Then in July she was contacted on the Internet by Nellie Cruz Fuentes, the daughter of her rescuer.
“She told me she was the daughter of the man that rescued me when I was a baby. She contacted me because she was going to write a book in honor of her father,” Abad said.
“She said her father had always kept me in his prayers and talked about me like I was part of the family,” Abad said. “She said ‘We grew up knowing your name. Every holiday you were mentioned.'”
At 86 years old and in poor health, Cruz wanted to again see the girl he had rescued. Abad still didn’t know the full details of her birth until she received a newspaper article about the rescue.
“When I started to read the article it touched my heart,” she said.
In September, Abad was invited to Puerto Rico for the launch of the book and that’s where she met Cruz.
“You could look at him and say ‘that’s a good person.’ There was something about him,” she said. “He met me, put his hand on my face and said ‘you’re the baby.’ I’m thinking I don’t look like a baby,” she said. “I just broke down and cried because I was so overwhelmed.”
She met nuns, priests and townspeople in Puerto Rico as well as one bus passenger who was severely injured in the crash.
Abad said the revelation has changed her life. “With that experience, I realized I needed to do something, instead of sitting around and moping,” she said.
She has lived in Hampton for 18 years but said she has felt disaffected since her 33-year-old daughter died more than a year ago. “I was beginning to feel sorry for myself,” she said.
Ironically buses have proved a catalyst for Abad to change her life.
As a HRT rider, she said she has had drivers in Hampton pull off before she could board. She also took up the case of a handicapped woman who she said was forced to get off at a stop some distance from her home. So she contacted Hampton City Council members and started to get involved in Hampton politics.
On Oct. 13, she was appointed to the Hampton Citizens’ Unity Commission by the Hampton City Council, and says she wants to run for council one day.
“I guess this has brought me peace that I didn’t realize I needed,” she said.
“You have to make it better for yourself,” she said. “It brought out another side of me. Even though you don’t think you are here for a reason, there has to be a reason.”
“It changed something in me and made me more vocal,” she said.