Meet Jacqui Saburido.
While taking a break from college in Venezuela, she came to the US in 1999 to study English. It had been less than a month since she arrived in Austin, Texas, when something absolutely horrific happened.
It was a little past 4 a.m. on Sunday, September 19, when Jacqui and her two friends, Natalia Bennet and Laura Guerrero, were driving home from a party. Reggie Stephey was also driving home early that morning, except he was drunk.
When his vehicle collided with the car Jacqui was in, both of her friends were immediately killed. But although she managed to survive the wreck, her legs were pinned beneath the dashboard and she couldn’t escape once a fire started in the engine.
She was on fire for close to a minute before medics could free her from the burning car.
By the time she was rescued, she had third-degree burns covering 60 percent of her body. Her skin, hair and face literally melted away. Jacqui was charred beyond recognition.
She was unconscious in the hospital for 10 months before finally waking up and realizing what had happened.
When she was able to see her face for the first time, she says she felt like a monster.
“Sometimes my soul wants to get out,” she confessed. “I want to be in another body where I can do whatever I want to do. But I don’t know how.”
So far, she’s had more than 50 surgeries, with plenty more to come throughout her life.
For this young woman, every single day is a battle. She doesn’t understand why something so horrific happened to her. She misses the body she once had, her opportunities, her independence, and the future she once looked forward to. But despite her appearance, she is happy that she survived the accident.
Her heartbreaking story is also one of strength and survival. She truly is the living example of what it means to have inner beauty.
Reggie ended up getting sentenced to seven years in prison and having to pay a $20,000 fine. He was released in 2008.