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Longtime WL residents working to get back on their feet after serious accident



Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Cornelia Seigneur and her husband, Chris, are recovering and happy to be alive after being struck by an SUV back on Jan. 9At 4:49 p.m. Jan. 9, Cornelia Seigneur shared a new blog post on her Facebook page.

She doesn’t blog every day, or even every week, but Seigneur was inspired to post her thoughts that particular afternoon — the day after her daughter had returned to her home in Germany.

“May I treat all of my people, my family, my friends, as if they are only here a short time,” she wrote. “Because, maybe they are. Maybe I am.”

Less than an hour later, Seigneur and her husband, Chris, were struck by an SUV on Highway 43.

• • •

The last thing she remembers is seeing people drinking coffee outside of Starbucks.

It was a “beautiful, sunny” evening in West Linn, and the Seigneurs decided to take a walk from their Robinwood area home to the Linn City Pub for happy hour.

Walking along Highway 43, they considered stopping at Thai Orchid or Bugatti’s Restaurant, but ultimately decided to stick with their original plan. As they passed McDonalds and waited to cross at Walling Way, Chris Seigneur watched to make sure none of the rush hour traffic was turning into the intersection. In the 25-plus years since they’d moved to West Linn, the Seigneurs had learned to be particularly cautious on the busier streets.

They were about halfway across the intersection when — all of a sudden — Chris Seigneur awoke on the pavement.

“We got hit from behind, and never saw anyone coming,” he said.

When Chris looked up, he saw Cornelia lying 30 feet away, crumbled up “like a rag doll,” as he remembered. He tried to get up and help her, but was instead pushed back to the ground.

“You’ve been in an accident,” a voice explained shortly before Chris was loaded into an ambulance.

After being thrown nearly 30 feet, Cornelia was knocked out cold, and didn’t come to until she was also in an ambulance on the way to OHSU, about 34 minutes after the accident.

“I was asking questions, the same ones, over and over again,” she said.

At least, that’s what she was told; two weeks later, she doesn’t remember asking questions in the ambulance. Her first true memory came almost two hours after the crash, when her son Ryan said, “Mom, you were in an accident.”

“Those words haunt me,” Cornelia said.

• • •

In the end, both Cornelia and Chris Seigneur escaped the crash with serious, but not life-threatening, injuries.

Cornelia was diagnosed with a concussion, and her right ear was nearly severed in two. Chris had a broken pelvis and suffered from temporary brain bleeding.

The driver of the car, 72-year old Michael Haftorson, remained at the scene and was cooperative after the crash, according West Linn police. Lighting and visibility conditions were believed to play a role in the crash, police said, and an initial suspicion of drunk driving proved to be false.

The weeks following the crash have been defined by recovery — with Cornelia resting at home while Chris rehabbed at The Pearl health center in Lake Oswego — as well as an “overwhelming” community response.

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Chris Seigneur is joined by his sons - Augustin, 11, and Wesley, 17 - as he exits The Pearl rehabilitation center.

“I was released from the hospital on Monday after the accident, and one of my greatest fears was that I couldn’t be there to help my wife and my family,” Chris Seigneur said. “Typically, if she’s hurt, I take over for her, or she does for me if I’m hurt. “I’m used to being the guy who takes care of things, but this time I couldn’t.”

And so, when Chris heard about the meals that were delivered even before Cornelia returned home, and the scores of neighbors, friends and family who stopped by to help around the house, he cried.

“That’s the amazing part, the overwhelming community support,” he said. “When both adults in a family are taken out, you need a lot of support.”

When she returned home Jan. 11, two days after the accident, Cornelia Seigneur was instructed to rest as much as possible. Her “screen time” — reading emails, sending text messages, checking social media — was limited to just 10 minutes at a time, and work was of course out of the question.

The best thing she could do was rest, but with three kids at home and her husband rehabbing in Lake Oswego, it was easier said than done.

Luckily, the Seigneurs had plenty of friends to rely on. Immediately after the crash, Seigneur’s daughter, Rachel, set up a Facebook group to keep people informed and organize efforts to help. Shortly thereafter, another friend of the family set up an account with the “Take Them a Meal” service.

So rapid was the response that the Seigneurs now have meals stocked all the way through March 2. Visitors arrived in droves, and as neighbor Bill Adams recalled, “It was like Grand Central Station up there.”

“We are just amazed and so humbly grateful for the outpouring of support,” Cornelia Seigneur said. “This accident has really opened my eyes to how far and wide and deep our lives go, and how important people are in our lives.”

A deluge of cards and flowers flooded in from across the country, and the Seigneurs’ living room now serves as a monument to the community’s concern.

“My friend said, ‘It’s like your funeral, but you’re alive,’” Cornelia said. “It’s weird because people are sending me all of these messages like, ‘Oh my gosh, remember when you did that? Or remember when you were my teacher, or when we did Bible study together, or when we did this or this’?

“It’s kind of like, wow, and I’m alive to hear all of this.”

• • •

Having completed the on-site portion of his rehabilitation at The Pearl, Chris Seigneur returned home last Saturday. Though not 100 percent recovered, he said his right leg is beginning to respond “almost like it typically would.”

Cornelia’s screen time limitations will last until at least Feb. 1, and she will soon begin follow up appointments with speech, physical and occupational therapists, as well as a sports medicine doctor and a reconstruction specialist for her ear.

In a recent prayer before dinner, the Seigneurs’ 17-year old son Michael Josef expressed thanks for the safety of his parents and, as Cornelia recalled, asked that “things get back to normal.”

Cornelia wasn’t so sure.

“I started to think, ‘What is normal, anyway?’ I don’t think I’ll ever get back to normal — I don’t know if I want to go back to normal,” she said. “I think things happen for a reason, and I want to find that reason.”

It’s a thought that has kept Cornelia awake late at night: Why us? Why did we survive?

“People have been Googling ‘pedestrians struck’ and several people said, ‘Cornelia, every single article that came up before yours was, “dead...dead...dead.”’”

For 25 years, the Seigneurs have been active in the West Linn community — Chris as a Boy Scout leader and Cornelia as a freelance writer, substitute teacher and volunteer. Now, after a near-death experience, Cornelia believes there is something more to pursue.

“God spared us for a reason, and I want to spend the rest of my life finding out why,” she said. “There’s more work to be done, there’s more people to reach, there’s more stories to write, there’s more people to care for.”

Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Cornelia Seigneur is recovering from a concussion and severely damaged right ear.

Patrick Malee can be contacted at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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