When Tragedy Feels Personal – 8 Children from Girls Home Die in Alabama Accident
+ Frame the Moment to Last

I didn’t hear the news until Sunday morning. My daughter Jenna sent me a text about the wreck.

On Saturday, June 19, 2021, around 2:30 p.m., a vanload of young girls, their ranch director Candice Gulley, Candice’s two children and two nephews are returning home.

Only two hours to go.

Their special beach vacation to Gulf Shores is over, but their summer is just beginning.

Tropical Storm Claudette is dumping torrential rain onto Interstate 65 as they travel. When they are about 35 miles south of Montgomery, vehicles begin to hydroplane. 

In a moment’s time, seventeen vehicles collide.

One of these vehicles is the van with the young girls from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch.

And in another moment, the van catches fire, as would six of the other vehicles that afternoon.

A bystander quickly pulls the driver, Candice, out of the van, but the fire spreads too quickly to save the others.

Eight children die in the van that day.

In a separate vehicle, 29-year-old Cody Fox and his 9-month-old daughter also die.

It’s too shocking to fathom.

Read more here.

I was at the ranch myself six years ago. I remember exuberant life among the girls who lived there. The extraordinary caring of the staff who lived with them.

It’s made this tragedy even more horrific to me.

So I’m reposting below this article I wrote in 2015 after my visit to the Girls Ranch.

It was a good day I’ll never forget. . .

. . .in contrast to June 19, 2021, a horrible, horrible day that many will never forget.

May those who remember be surrounded with God’s love through his people for years to come.

We’re asked to please pray for their ranch family. And for ranch director Candice Gulley who remains in serious but stable condition in the hospital after losing her own 4-year-old and 16-year-old children in the accident.

If you’d like to contribute toward funeral expenses, medical costs for the injured, and counseling for those affectected, here’s the GoFundMe link for the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~


[originally posted May 11, 2015]

Fourteen young ladies come out of the two houses.

They live there temporarily, when they’re not living with a relative or in a foster home or as a runaway. In these houses they are fed, clothed, cared for.

And on one special day in November, they are about to be framed.

It is Jenna’s idea. These girls aren’t a project to her or a ministry opportunity.

They are real people; they are young friends.  

So on this Tuesday a professional makeup artist shows up at the ranch to give free makeovers. A stylist to give new hairdos. And a photographer to make it permanent.

As the mother of the photographer, I get invited to tag along with Jenna and take pictures, too. I knew she’d developed her own friendships with the girls, including one in particular, and I am excited to meet them all myself.

Like most teenage girls, they giggle through the make-up and hair sessions. They gawk at the changes in each other. They haggle over who will wear what, and the stash of extra clothes brought in gets divvied up.

Then it is time for the pictures.

One by one—and then sometimes two by three or four—they strike a pose and flash their best smiles or serious looks for the camera.

Then in no time, the afternoon is over and we pack up our gear, hug goodbye, and drive away.

But it’s not over.

Later that weekend, as Jenna begins editing, she calls me with excitement. The pictures are turning out great. The girls show up as gorgeous as they are.

Despite years of pain, of abuse, or of neglect, their beauty and hope still rise to the top. It looks different on each girl, but it’s definitely there on each of them.

The final step comes a few weeks later in the mailbox. I open the package of fresh photos—printed 5x7s of faith, that someone cares, and that someone is worth caring for.

Jenna matches each picture with a frame. Then carefully wraps and ribbons and later gifts these photos and more to the girls to be amazed at their own beauty.

What will each girl do with her photos?

Some will probably go to love interests, some traded among each other, and some probably tucked away in the next packing box as they move along to the next home.

But I pray that the memory of that day in November travels with them wherever they go. That when they see their pictures, they remember that they are loved, that they are valuable, that their life is framed with purpose.

In a frame, things look more official. More real. More permanent. This is who I am; can you see me?

Life never stays static. But catch a fleeting moment at the right time, and it brings more than pleasure for the day; it carries stability and confidence into tomorrow.

Take the shot, freeze the moment, and capture a memory. A memory of a day getting made up, dressed up, and photographed. There may have been tears before (and bruises—I saw some) and tears after, but on that day, I saw smiles and heard laughter.

That was caught in the photo, in the frame, and hopefully in the heart.

A single day can last much longer if it’s framed properly.

In the daily lives of these teenage girls, already marked by impermanence and uncertainty, moments need to be captured forever.

On that day, we celebrated the moment. The girl. The life.

I hope they will remember. I know I will.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

When we read of tragic car accidents or when children die, we all take it personally for various reasons. Share your thoughts in the comments.

76 thoughts on “When Tragedy Feels Personal – 8 Children from Girls Home Die in Alabama Accident
+ Frame the Moment to Last

  1. Linda@Creekside

    I love the beauty captured here this morning, Lisa. I love how the radiance of these young women is celebrated and saved by your daughter’s lens.

    And most of all, I love that arm in arm, supporting and encouraging each other, we move ahead toward who He’s shaped us to be.


    If I could hug each and every one of you all, I would!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That arm in arm—it gets me too, Linda. Love the camaraderie that these girls feel for each other, even though they come and go with frequency. It has to help.

  2. Bill (cycelguy)

    What an absolutely beautiful story to read on a Monday morning. Kudos to Ms. Beth for her heart and kudos to all who helped these girls find a little beauty among the ashes. If only it could be permanent…inside and out. We can pray they will move on to loving homes and relationships.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, my prayer too is that they move on to loving homes and relationships. Thanks, Bill. It’s what we’d want for our own kids, so it’s what we want for them.

  3. Michele Morin

    Lisa, it’s just you and me so far at the Small Wonder Link up, and I’m so glad to read this post. The first thing that came to my mind as I read about this wonderful activity is that you have all given those young women the gift of having been really SEEN. They were helped with their appearance, they were noticed and fussed over, and now they actually have evidence of it in a frame. This is so like what God does for us!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The gift of “having been seen” – yes, I love that, Michele. It truly is something valuable, and something we can do all do wherever we go. Aren’t we blessed that God does that for us!

  4. Pamela

    Oh my, Lisa, this brought tears to my eyes just reading it. I can’t imagine the impact on those girls. What a blessed moment to watch your own daughter bless others — giving them true friendship. A moment in time the girls will never forget.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Pamela, that it was indeed special for me to watch my own daughter be able to do this. The older our kids get, the less we’re able to actually witness things like this, so I felt honored to get to be there with her in action.

  5. Sharon

    What a simply wonderful idea. My cousin is involved in a charity that helps young ladies that are burn victims. One of the things that they do is to give them lessons in how to apply their special makeup. The *after* photos of those smiles are overwhelming.

    God does indeed look upon the heart, and He doesn’t judge by our appearance. But sometimes, a special time like Jenna and you participated in can show young girls the truth of their beauty. Ugly life events do not make ugly people, and it’s good for them to know this.

    There is nothing more beautiful than the look of hope…


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      So much in your comment that touches my heart, Sharon. What a great charity that your cousin in involved with. Burn victims have gone through so much physical pain and then have the added physical scars to deal with the rest of their lives. I love your final statement too: “Ugly life events do not make ugly people.” Amen.

  6. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! What a beautiful transformation you saw…not just on the outside, but on the inside. That’s the hardest place to help transform. Treating these children as just that, children… who need dignity, not someone to treat them like a ‘project’ is such a gift. You must have been so proud of your daughter.

    We have a family photo that I cajoled my family into this past summer. We were together for a family reunion, and I really wanted a photo of all of us. I love it!
    Monday blessings,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “as children” – yes, that is what I see too, Ceil. Just kids who have been given a horrible lot in life, but who can turn it around with the proper love and attention. So grateful that God has placed the ranch employees there to love on them, and that they allow others to come in like my daughter and her church. It can make all the difference.

      A family photo with everyone? That’s wonderful! It’s hard to get those. I know you’ll treasure it for a long time to come.

  7. Barbara H.

    What a wonderful thing to do! And what a beauitful expression of hope in what could be when this chapter of their lives is over. I like what another commenter referred to as “the truth of their beauty.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I like your insight, Barbara–“when this chapter of their lives is over.” It makes me happy to think that although this storyline will always be a part of their history, it doesn’t have to be an indicator of the whole book. Just a chapter. There is always hope.

  8. Dolly@Soulstops

    What a beautiful and hopeful post…lovely to see your Jenna and all the good she is already doing …you must be a proud mama….and I pray those young women will see the beauty God and others see in them…Thanks for blessing me with this story 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I am proud of her, Dolly. I’m thankful that God has given her opportunities to use her gifts in lots of different ways, sometimes even painful ones. Yes, there is so much beauty in these young women–I join you in praying that they will see it in themselves too.

  9. Nicki Schroeder

    I love that there is a meaning behind these pictures that far exceeds the frame that will hold them. It’s so cool your daughter loved on these girls like that. We are HORRIBLE at taking pics in our family. I have been married for 11 years and I barely have a thing to prove that on paper/camera. We just live in the moment and don’t do a great job of capturing them to remember later. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. I go back and forth between taking lots of pics and then taking none. On the one hand, I love being able to just stay in the moment like you mentioned. But on the other hand, I do like looking back at pictures of those times. So my personal favorite is when someone ELSE takes the pictures and gives them to me. 🙂

  10. Beverley

    There is a saying that goes around in church, not sure if it came from a church young women’s leader at some point, but it goes like – they may not remember what you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them feel – i am sure every time these young women look at those photos or think about that day they will remember how they felt.

  11. ~ linda

    Oh, my! What a beautiful gift, many gifts, to give to these young women, these girls. They will remember the day and the gifts of each person doing the giving. Yes, there is hope and joy in moments. No matter what more they each have to endure, they have the beautiful potential to be all that God has created them to be because someone(s) cared and continue to care about and for them.
    Praising God for this powerful message for each of us to remember.
    ~ linda

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Linda. It’s amazing how sometimes one day can carry such weight; I do pray that that day will do just that for these sweet souls. They’ve seen so much ugliness already in the world; I want them to also see there is much beauty.

  12. Cheryl Smith

    What a beautiful thing you and Jenna did! I can’t even imagine how much it boosted the self-esteem of those dear girls to know that someone took the time to give them a special day, then to preserve those memories in this way. God bless you and your daughter, Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Cheryl. I think the day made as big an impression on me as on anybody. 🙂 God is good to bless us even as we try to bless others. We can never outgive him, yes?

  13. Joanna Sormunen

    What a beautiful post! And wonderful thing to do for the girls. There is something special about a picture of you. Especially for a teenager. That someone took that time to look at you and make you beautiful and make it permanent. It is something that will certainly touch them. And hopefully bring something even more special in their future. God bless you all!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re right, Joanna—there is something special about having a photo of ourselves. I take it for granted that everyone nowadays has a million of themselves because of phones and Facebook, etc. But we’re probably having fewer actual printed copies so hopefully this will be something they can keep for a long time.

  14. Mary Geisen

    Thank you for sharing this memory and the beauty that resulted. I have a picture of my sons and I acting totally goofy and it is my favorite. It shows our true personalities. Blessed to be visiting you from #TellHisStory.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I bet that’s an awesome picture of you and your sons, Mary! Glad you have that. Pictures like that tend to resurface at times of graduations, weddings, etc. 🙂

  15. Anita Ojeda

    What a beautiful project! We have a photo book of our eldest daughter’s wedding–it was almost two summers ago, and it was the last summer we were all together as a family and before our youngest daughter started her painful journey through discovering she has bipolar disorder. Many a time over the last few months I’ve looked at the book and reminded myself that THAT is the real second born–and God will restore her as she continues her journey.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you have that photo book, Anita. How special. And even more so when you reflect back through what your daughter has experienced since then. I join you in praying that God will restore her to her full emotional health soon. That’s a difficult journey to walk….

  16. Betsy de Cruz

    This is a beautiful story, Lisa. It makes my heart go out to those girls. Little things do make a difference, and you never know what God does in the little things. My favorite framed moment? My Turkish sister’s wedding 3 years ago. My husband preached, I was the matron of honor and my kids were in the wedding party. We have a lovely family photo with my sister and her husband!

  17. June

    What a perfectly lovely gift! Your daughter sounds like a special, caring and compassionate person. Why doesn’t that surprise me ? 🙂 Have a blessed week, Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It was fun to get to see how excited some of the girls were when they looked in the mirror that day. I do hope it sticks with them on the inside, regardless of what the mirror says on the outside.

  18. Kelly Chripczuk

    This makes me wonder what days I tend to frame . . . and what kind of captions I write on them.
    What a wonderful gift for these women. Thanks for linking and being part of the #SmallWonder community, Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, sometimes I’m sure I frame the bad parts of the day instead of the best, or the worst quotes that someone spoke to me instead of the truths that God tells me. I need to spend more time with this concept. Thanks, Kelly.

  19. AMY JUNG

    What a sweet way to minister to the girls! I also love the thought that capturing a moment can help us walk into the future…even heal from the past. Maybe that is why I love capturing life on camera! Blessings to you…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You do capture so many beautiful moments on camera, Amy. I have enjoyed the photos on your blog for a long time. You have a gift of helping the rest of us “frame” God’s blessings.

  20. Jennifer Smith

    I am sitting here heartbroken. Just without words. I had heard of the accident..the tragedy and so many lives lost. I promise to be praying. Thank you for sharing – and for sharing your sweet day that you had there!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know your prayers will be heard. I still don’t have the proper words for this tragedy either. 🙁 I have plenty of tears instead. Thanks for sharing your heart, Jennifer!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know; it’s just the worst kind of news to hear. 🙁 I can’t imagine the trauma the friends and family will be experiencing for a long time to come.

  21. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    Lovely post, Lisa. There was still a traffic jam in that spot on Sunday when I passed through. We thought when we passed that a terrible accident had occurred there, but we had no idea how terrible until the next day when we saw it on social media. Praying for them.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I heard that the traffic backed up for hours in both directions. It’s one of those situations where I tend to complain about a traffic jam UNTIL I hear there’s been a wreck, then it changes my perspective quickly. Lord, have mercy on them all! Thanks for your prayers for them, Ashley.

  22. Lisa Blair

    I’m sad to hear of this terrible accident and will pray for those affected.

    Thank you for sharing the ‘Framed the Moment to Last’ post from 2015. I especially found these statements powerful, “A single day can last much longer if it’s framed properly.” And, “On that day, we celebrated the moment. The girl. The life.”

    It’s beautiful to hear of your daughter’s act of kindness and the gift she and the other two women gave to these young ladies. It’s inspiring!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lisa. I was very moved, too, by the generous gifts of skill and time and energy that were given on that day in 2015. I hope the girls came away with as strong a memory of that day as I did.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for your prayers, Amy. The ranch director’s youngest child that died would have had a birthday today, from what I hear. 🙁 It’s just so terrible.

  23. Tammy Kennington


    My heart grieves the loss and pain while celebrating the hope and friendship God is resurrecting in these young lives.

    He sees these precious ones.

    Thank you for sharing…

    Peace and grace,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “He sees these precious ones.” That gives me comfort, Tammy. Yes, so grateful that he sees. May those around them see God too, and reflect his love to them as well.

  24. Debbie W

    Lisa, tragedies like that take my breath away. After reading of one such accident many years ago, Is. 57:1 was in my morning Bible reading: “The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands
    that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.” What a comfort that God would put that verse on that day for me. It said to me He would be there for those whose loved ones were lost too. May all affected by this know His comfort and grace.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That is indeed a comforting scripture, Debbie. I’m thankful you shared it here! We can’t make sense of these tragedies, but we can look for God to stay beside us in them.

  25. Nancy Ruegg

    I cannot imagine such horrific circumstances; I can only pray: Lord God, our hearts ache for all those impacted by this accident. Hold each loved one of a victim so close in your embrace, they KNOW you’re surrounding them with your strong, presence. May faith not falter but grow as they rely upon you. May hope not die but be made stronger as they trust in you.

  26. Faith

    Wow….i heard on our local news here in NY that there was a bad accident in Alabama but i never heard the details. Horrific indeed. Only our Comforter can bring peace so I will pray for all involved that they would know Him and HIs comfort in this difficult time.

    HOw wonderful for you to have the treasured memory of your time at this ranch.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for your prayers, Faith. I heard yesterday about the building collapse in Miami, and it all feels so distant, but I know to those in Florida, it feels very close. I’m thankful that the Lord bridges all our geographic gaps through our prayers.

  27. Donna B Reidland

    I somehow missed this on the news but how heartbreaking! And what a reminder of the importance of extending love and grace to those God puts in our paths. None of us knows what the future holds but we can be faithful to bless others today. It sounds like you did just that!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What wonderful advice, Donna: Be faithful to bless others today. Today is the only time we ever have, and if we’ll be faithful in this moment, we’ll know we’re doing all we can. Thanks.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know; I can’t imagine all their grief either. 🙁 It will take a long time for all the families and friends to come to terms with this. May God have mercy as they grieve.

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