On a beautiful summer evening in Providence, RI, Dana Goodman and her boyfriend Shaemus Shepard emerge from the Trinity Repertory Theater. They’re having a romantic date, celebrating Dana’s completion of her first year of graduate studies in Environmental Science and Policy at Clark University. As they cross the street, headed for a fun music club, they suddenly see headlights coming at them. A tourist in a rental car slams first into Shaemus, throwing him 10 feet, then into Dana, who smashes the windshield with the back of her head. She blacks out for a moment, before seeing Shaemus lying in the street with his eyes closed. Fearing the worst, she starts to scream.
She flashes back to four years earlier, when she is a senior at NYU and interning at Focus Features. Her mother arrives to tell her that her two aunts and uncles and four cousins have been in a tragic accident. After a vacation in Belize, they had a layover in Dallas and were taking a shuttle van from their hotel to the airport. On that 10-minute ride at 6:00 in the morning, they were hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the highway. The drunk driver, who had multiple DUIs and a revoked license, was not hurt, but Dana’s beloved 13-year-old cousin was instantly killed and an aunt and uncle were critically injured.
Since Dana was an only child, she was extremely close to her cousin Brianna. A golden girl with an infectious, open spirit, "Breezy," as she was nicknamed, was on her way to becoming an Olympic soccer player and concert pianist. Beautiful and fun-loving, she lit up any room she entered. Her senseless death shattered Dana, dispelling any innocent notion that life is fair.
In the emergency room with Shaemus, Dana has plenty of time to think about life’s twists and turns. After Brianna’s death, she tunneled through her emotional pain, graduating magna cum laude from NYU. Instead of continuing at Focus Features, she went home to Rhode Island to take care of her relatives. Aspiring to be a documentary filmmaker, she made a few short films and got an opportunity to show one at a local coffee house. She was supposed to screen her work after a more prominent filmmaker showed his, but he canceled due to a flat tire, so the room was entirely empty. Dana was facing an awkward and embarrassing failure when the doorbell clanged and in walked someone tall, dark and handsome.
As in any cheesy movie, it was love at first sight. Shaemus, a drummer, came to the coffee house looking for an open mic opportunity for his band. As he shook Dana’s hand, she heard the violin solo from “My Girl” in her head. He became her audience of one, and they have been inseparable ever since.
Love becomes a miracle cure for Dana, restoring much of her vibrant spirit. As for her physical recovery, her mother decides that there’s no better place to sit around incapacitated than on a beach in Barbados.
Dana finds a lot of interesting sea glass along that beach and brings it with her to her annual family vacation on Lake Wallenpaupac in Pennsylvania a week later. Since she can’t participate in any physical activities like boating, water skiing or tubing, she finds a positive, creative outlet in making sea glass jewelry. To her surprise, her pieces sell when she shows them at a farmers market, so she continues to make them. She now maintains a store for her recycled jewelry called Odd Baubles on Etsy.
On the filmmaking front, she just uploaded her documentary on ocean acidification to YouTube and leads a team for the Providence 48-Hour Film Project next month. To make her own life sustainable, she works part-time at Brighton Collectibles in Providence, RI. Not surprisingly, she wears the store’s Cape Cod collection, since starfish are one of the ocean creatures affected by climate change.
Those who hear about her “tidal pool of a life” marvel at her energy, perseverance and positive outlook. She remains more determined than ever to do well and do good. “Everything I've pushed myself to do has been to make my cousin Brianna proud, and to honor her memory and her spirit by doing something impactful,” she says. “I’m fortified by the determination that I will not let my life go by without giving it all I've got.”