from HORROR to HOPE
Marie Claire Australia|April 2021
After suffering public and paralysing pain, three women tell Sarah Ayoub how they channelled their experience of trauma into a force for good
Sarah Ayoub

THE FORGIVENESS ADVOCATE

Leila Abdallah lost three of her six children when they were killed by a drunk driver on February 1, 2020. In addition to working with the government on the Four Angels Law, she and her husband, Danny, recently launched i4Give Day.

Leila Abdallah remembers her sister asking if their children could walk together to get ice cream. It was a warm summer’s evening and Leila’s husband, Danny, replied he thought it would be fine – they were a group of seven children and the shop was only a five-minute walk from their home in Oatlands, in Sydney’s west.

Not long after, three of Leila and Danny’s children, Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna, 8, as well as their niece Veronique Sakr, 11, were dead. They had been hit by Samuel William Davidson, 29, who was three times over the legal drinking limit and under the influence of cocaine and MDMA when his out-of-control ute mounted the kerb. “When I got to the scene and saw my kids, I was so shocked, I started praying the Our Father,” Leila recalls, her voice quiet. “It was horrific; I couldn’t believe it. I kept saying that God wouldn’t harm my kids, that nothing would happen to them. It was only when I heard my daughter Liana say she didn’t want to lose me like she had lost her siblings, I realised that it had actually happened and that I had to focus on her, her brothers and Danny.”

Speaking to marie claire on the first anniversary of the children’s deaths, Leila tallies off a number of recent pedestrian deaths around New South Wales at the hands of negligent drivers, disheartened by the fact that nothing has changed. She believes that making passengers accountable for knowingly travelling with drug and alcohol-affected drivers could prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedies. Leila’s sense of justice is driven by the desire to ensure that no family has to go through the suffering that hers has. Together with Veronique’s mother, Bridget, Leila and Danny teamed up with the Centre for Road Safety and Transport NSW and the NSW transport minister, Andrew Constance, to draft the Four Angels Law, which was introduced to Parliament on February 1.

The proposed law will compound drug and drink driving charges – previously separate fines of $2200 and $3300 respectively – increasing the penalty to an $11,000 fine and two years in jail.

But Leila also knows that justice can only go so far, and her primary motivation is to build on the forgiveness she says was instinctive in the aftermath of the tragedy. “Danny and I were able to forgive the driver, my children have forgiven the driver,” explains Leila, a devout Maronite Catholic. “One of our main beliefs is forgiveness, and I don’t want anyone to distract us from saving our souls and saving our family. I want Liana, Alex and Michael to have a good life.”

With the support of both the state and federal governments, the Abdallahs launched i4Give Day on the first anniversary of the deaths, to encourage others to pursue forgiveness as a path to healing. Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the event, describing the Abdallah’s sense of forgiveness as “breathtaking”.

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