January 1 is not a date that 20-year-old Justin Prescott and 21-year-old Dario Phillips look forward to. That date reminds these two childhood friends of the night when they, friend Raphael and Dario’s brother Freundel Phillips all stared death in the face. Today, they look back in gratitude to God that their lives were spared, although they are yet to get past the fear of acquiring a driver’s licence. They will also tell you without any hesitation that church and parties don’t mix. Rewind to the wee hours of January 1, 2012. The three friends – Raphael (who declined to be interviewed), Dario and Justin – felt that since it was the end of the year they would usher in the New Year by attending the Old Year’s Night service at the Church of the Nazarene in Westmoreland, St James, where Dario was a member. After the church service the three decided to attend a party at Upper Carlton, St James. With no transportation of their own, Dario called his older brother Freundel, who readily agreed to take them to the party. In fact, they felt they had even more reason to celebrate since Justin was three days away from celebrating his 19th birthday. “As we left my home in Bridgefield, St Thomas, there was an unusual silence in the car,” Dario said. “We missed the gap we would normally turn onto and ended up in Warrens, St Michael. “I soon realized that my brother thought we were headed to Carlton, Black Rock, instead of Upper Carlton, St James, so we had to head towards the direction of the university instead.” It was halfway up this section of the highway that Freundel proceeded to make a right turn, after lining up in the middle lane. “All I remembered,” stressed Dario, “was that we were in the middle lane getting ready to turn. The next thing I knew was that I was at the hospital – three days later.” Justin continued speaking about the night of horror by explaining that two cars coming from the direction of the university appeared out of nowhere. “The road was clear when we were getting ready to turn, then suddenly I saw these lights. The drivers of these cars were racing in the wrong lane. I heard the brakes screeching and opened my eyes a little later to a wild scene,” he said. It was a three-car smash-up – the first vehicular accident for 2012. Justin recalled seeing lots of people standing around but could not remember where he was going. While the drivers of the other two cars, Freundel and Justin suffered soft tissue damage, Dario and Raphael were the worst affected. Dario was unconscious for three days and spent nine days in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital hanging on for dear life. “I only knew about my injuries when I came home,” he said. “I was unconscious for three whole days, but was informed that friends, church members and family members were praying for us.” He recalled that the first person he saw when he opened his eyes was his sister Nadia Greenidge who, like other family members, kept daily vigils at his bedside, believing that the hand of God would bring him through. It most certainly did. Dario suffered a broken neck, broken shoulder and four broken ribs on the left side – but has lived to share his story. “I was in a lot of pain. It hurt badly, but I was worried about my friend Raphael whose injuries, I was told, were also serious. “I kept asking for him, Justin and my brother, who later came limping to look for me. He also had two broken ribs.” After 12 weeks of therapy and treatment, Dario, a former student of St James Secondary School, started to heal. Justin, a storeroom clerk with Spring Homes, had been treated and discharged, having suffered soft tissue injuries. Today, however, he is quick to say that when January 1, 2013, came around, both he and Dario experienced the physical pain from a year ago. Weeks after the accident, the blaming process started. “We blamed each other because we felt that if we had stayed home, it would not have happened. Nevertheless, we were glad that everyone in the accident made it through the ordeal,” Dario said. Justin, who like Dario is the youngest of his siblings, had to experience the wrath of his mother Joan, who was not at all pleased he had gone off to attend a party without first returning home that night. “She was glad to see me alive, but she was very vexed that I had left home for church but never returned,” Justin disclosed. Since that ordeal, Dario, who now sings in the church’s choir, has recommitted his life to the Lord. “I was a Christian from the age of 17, but had stopped attending church. After the accident I started going back to church to give God thanks.” Although Justin, a former student of The Lester Vaughan School, attends church, he is not yet committed but intends to follow the same path as his friend. Along with Raphael, the two felt the need to return to church last Old Year’s Night, where they shared their testimonies. Doing this had its challenges, especially for Dario, a former construction worker. “I did not want to leave home on Old Year’s Night but I had to go to church to give thanks to God. My neck started hurting and Justin’s back began to hurt as well, but I believed it was the enemy who wanted me to live in fear and not give God thanks for sparing my life,” he said. These young men not only thank God for sparing their lives, but they also acknowledge the support of Nazarene Youth International, the doctors and nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, church members, family and friends for their prayers and support. “Most of all, we give God thanks for this second chance at life,” declared Dario.