Joni: An Unforgettable Story

Joni: An Unforgettable Story

Paperback(25th Anniversary Edition)

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The award-winning story of a young woman who triumphed over devastating odds to touch countless lives the world over with the healing message of Christ. Includes photos and illustrations by Joni. In a split second on a hot July afternoon, a diving accident transformed the life of Joni Eareckson Tada forever. She went from being an active young woman to facing every day in a wheelchair. In this unforgettable autobiography, Joni reveals each step of her struggle to accept her disability and discover the meaning of her life. The hard-earned truths she discovers and the special ways God reveals his love are testimonies to faith’s triumph over hardship and suffering. The new 25th Anniversary edition of this award-winning story--which has more than 3,000,000 copies in print in over 40 languages--will introduce a new generation of readers to the incredible greatness of God’s power and mercy at work in those who fully give their hearts and lives to him. Joni has written an afterword in which she describes the events that have occurred in her life since the book’s publication in 1976, including her marriage to Ken Tada and the expansion of her worldwide ministry to families affected by disability. Joni is now available for the first time in an unabridged audio version read by the author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310240013
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/28/2001
Edition description: 25th Anniversary Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 266,305
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Joni Eareckson Tada is CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Joni and Friends provides practical support and spiritual help to special-needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous bestselling books, including When God Weeps, Diamonds in the Dust, A Step Further, winner of the Gold Medallion Award, and her latest award-winning devotional A Spectacle of Glory. Joni and her husband, Ken, have been married for 35 years. For more information on Joni and Friends, visit

Read an Excerpt


An Unforgettable Story
By Joni Eareckson Tada


Copyright © 2001 Zondervan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-24001-8

Chapter One

The hot July sun was setting low in the west and gave the waters of Chesapeake Bay a warm red glow. The water was murky, and as my body broke the surface in a dive, its cold cleanness doused my skin.

In a jumble of actions and feelings, many things happened simultaneously. I felt my head strike something hard and unyielding. At the same time, clumsily and crazily, my body sprawled out of control. I heard or felt a loud electric buzzing, an unexplainable inner sensation. It was something like an electrical shock, combined with a vibration-like a heavy metal spring being suddenly and sharply uncoiled, its "sprong" perhaps muffled by the water. Yet it wasn't really a sound or even a feeling-just a sensation. I felt no pain.

I heard the underwater sound of crunching, grinding sand. I was lying face down on the bottom. Where? How did I get here? Why are my arms tied to my chest? My thoughts screamed. Hey! I'm caught!

I felt a small tidal undercurrent lift me slightly and let me settle once more on the bottom. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw light above me. Some of the confusion left. I remembered diving into the bay. Then what? Am I caught in a fishnet or something? I need to get out! I tried to kick. My feet must be tied or caught too!

Panic seized me. With all my willpower and strength, I tried to break free. Nothing happened. Another tidal swell lifted and rolled.

What's wrong? I hit my head. Am I unconscious? Trying to move is like trying to move in a dream. Impossible. But I'll drown! Will I wake up in time? Will someone see me? I can't be unconscious, or I wouldn't be aware of what's happening. No, I'm alive.

I felt the pressure of holding my breath begin to build. I'd have to breathe soon.

Another tidal swell gently lifted me. Fragments of faces, thoughts, and memories spun crazily across my consciousness. My friends. My parents. Things I was ashamed of. Maybe God was calling me to come and explain these actions.

"Joni!" A somber voice echoed down some eerie corridor, almost as a summons. God? Death?

I'm going to die! I don't want to die! Help me, please.


Doesn't anyone care that I'm here? I've got to breathe!

"Joni!" That voice! Muffled through the waters, it sounded far off. Now it was closer. "Joni, are you all right?"

Kathy! My sister sees me. Help me, Kathy! I'm stuck!

The next tidal swell was a little stronger than the rest and lifted me a bit higher. I fell back on the bottom, with broken shells, stones, and sand grating into my shoulders and face.

"Joni, are you looking for shells?"

No! I'm caught down here-grab me! I can't hold my breath any longer.

"Did you dive in here? It's so shallow," I heard Kathy clearly now.

Her shadow indicated she was now above me. I struggled inwardly against panic, but I knew I had no more air. Everything was going dark.

I felt Kathy's arms around my shoulders, lifting.

Oh, please, dear God. Don't let me die!

Kathy struggled, stumbled, then lifted again. Oh, God, how much longer? Everything was black, and I felt I was falling while being lifted. Just before fainting, my head broke the water's surface. Air! Beautiful, life-giving, salt-tinged air. I choked in oxygen so quickly, I almost gagged. Gasping, I gulped in mouthfuls.

"Oh, thank You, God-thank You!" I managed.

"Hey, are you okay?" Kathy asked. I blinked to clear my mind and dissolve the confusion. It didn't seem to work because I saw my arm slung lifelessly over Kathy's shoulder, yet I felt it was still tied to my chest.

I looked down at my chest. My arms were not tied. I realized with a growing horror that my limbs were dangling motionlessly. I couldn't move them!

In the confusion, Kathy took charge. She called to a nearby swimmer on an inflated raft. Together they wrestled me onto it and pushed it toward shore. I heard the raft beneath me slide against the sandy beach.

I tried to get up but felt pinned against the raft. People began to hurry over to see what had happened. Soon there was a crowd hovering above me, faces looking down in curiosity. Their stares and whispers made me feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and even more confused.

"Kathy, please make them leave."

"Yes, everyone stand back! Someone call an ambulance. Move away, please. She needs air," Kathy instructed.

Kathy's boyfriend, Butch, knelt beside me. His lean frame shielded me from the crowd, now moving back. "You okay, kid?" he asked. His large dark eyes, usually smiling and full of good-natured fun, were clouded with concern.

"Kathy-I can't move!" I was frightened. I could see they were too.

Kathy nodded.

"Hold me!"

"I am, Joni." She lifted my hands to show that she was grasping them firmly.

"But I can't feel it. Squeeze me."

Kathy bent over and held me close. I couldn't feel her hug.

"Can you feel this?" She touched my leg.

"No," I said.

"This?" She squeezed my forearm.

"No!" I cried. "I can't feel it!"

"How about this?" Her hand slid from my arm to rest on my shoulder.

"Yes! Yes, I can feel that!"

Relief and joy suddenly came over us. At last, somewhere on my body, I could feel something. As I lay there on the sand, I began to piece things together. I had hit my head diving; I must have injured something to cause this numbness. I wondered how long it would last.

"Don't worry," I reassured Butch and Kathy-and myself. "The Lord won't let anything happen to me. I'll be all right."

I heard the wail of a siren. Soon the ambulance pulled up and doors opened. In less than a minute, attendants efficiently lifted me onto a stretcher. Somehow their starched white uniforms were comforting as they carefully placed me in the back of the ambulance. The crowd of curious onlookers followed.

Kathy started to climb up into the ambulance.

Butch took her hand and said softly, "I'll follow in the car." Then he nodded sternly to the driver. "Be careful with her," he instructed.

The siren began to wail, and we headed away from the beach.

I looked up at the attendant riding beside me and said, "I hate to put you to all this trouble. I think once I catch my breath I'll be okay. I'm sure the numbness will wear off shortly."

He didn't say anything but reached over and brushed sand off my face, smiled, and looked away. I wish he'd say something to let me know I'll be all right-that I'll be going home as soon as the doctors at the hospital check me over, I thought.

But no comforting words were offered. I was left to my own thoughts and prayers as the siren wailed. I looked through the window at the city speeding by outside.

The Lord is my shepherd ...

People on curbs stared curiously.

I shall not want ...

Cars pulled over to let us pass.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ...

The ambulance slowed and turned down a busy boulevard.

He restoreth my soul ...

I could not collect my thoughts enough to pray. I clung to memorized promises from the Bible.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me....

Suddenly the ambulance siren growled into silence. The driver backed up to the doors of the hospital, and the attendants quickly began to ease my stretcher out. As they swung me smoothly through the doors, I saw the sign:



Emergency Vehicles Only

By now the city sky was dark; the sun had set. I was cold and longed to be home.

Inside, the emergency area was alive with activity. I was taken into a room and placed on a hospital table with wheels. The light hurt my eyes. As I turned my face to avoid its glare, I could see all the equipment and supplies arranged in ready rows. Bottles, gauze, bandages, trays, scissors, scalpels, jars, packets with long, medical-sounding names, and unfamiliar shapes were all about. The antiseptic smells and pungent odors made me slightly queasy.

A nurse strapped me to the table and wheeled me into one of the many small cubicles. She pulled privacy curtains around me. Again I struggled desperately to move my arms and legs. They were still numb and motionless. I feel so helpless. I'm getting sick. I'm scared. Tears welled up in my eyes.

"Can't you tell me what's happened to me?" I begged.

The nurse merely shrugged and began to take off my rings. "The doctor will be here soon. Now, I'm going to put your jewelry in this envelope. Regulations."

"How long do I have to stay here? Can I go home tonight?"

"I'm sorry. You'll have to ask the doctor. Regulations." Her answer was emotionless and reminded me of a telephone recording.

Another nurse came into the cubicle with forms to fill out.

"Name, please."

"Joni Eareckson."

"Johnny? J-o-h-n-n-y?"

"No. It's pronounced Johnny-after my father-but it's spelled J-o-n-i. Last name is E-a-r-e-c-k-s-o-n." Then I gave her my address, my folks' name and number, and asked her to call them.

"Do you have Blue Cross?"

"I don't know. Ask my folks-or my sister. She's probably outside. She was with me at the beach. Her name is Kathy. Ask her."

The nurse with the clipboard left. The other put the envelope with my belongings in it on a nearby table. Then she opened a drawer and pulled out a big pair of shears.

"W-what are you going to do?" I stammered.

"I've got to remove your swimming suit."

"But don't cut it! It's brand-new. I just got it-and it's my fav-"

"Sorry. Regulations," She repeated. The heavy ch-cluk, ch-cluk, ch-cluk of the shears echoed off the plaster walls. She pulled the ruined scraps of material off and dropped them in a waste can. She didn't even care. The suit didn't mean a thing to her. I wanted to cry.


Excerpted from Joni by Joni Eareckson Tada Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Joni 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When i first read this book it was simply just a 'school asignment' i picked up the book thinking ' o great another biography' but by the second page i was into it. This is definitely a book that anyone would love, especially teens in need of the truth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great inspirational story. We follow through the life of Joni, her tragic diving accident, her struggles through all the operations, her anger with God, her desperation with trying to deal with it all, and in the end, how she was able to find hope and purpose. Very inspiring to all of us who face challenges, although rarely as great as hers. She has real struggles and admits it. She's okay with that. But she has found something to get her through and she honestly wants to share that with us. It is also enlightening to hear about the prejudice she encounters, and how people are uncomfortable around the wheel-chair, it gives insight into how her and many other people with disabilities feel. A must-read. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was very good. At first i didnt wana read it but it help me undrstand life better and the struggles. it was just a report assignment at school but it was very interesting to read good job.
Raech More than 1 year ago
I have not read this version. But the 1975 version riveted me as a young child. It gripped me from her accident on page one. Not being a Christian I am not sure I will buy this version. I am unsure if it become preachy. I know the original was about tragedy, bravery, and learning how to adapt. I wish I could find another copy as it appeared in 1975. I was born in 1971.
Tatyana Gladun More than 1 year ago
At first when my mom made me read this i thought it would be boring but i learned so much from joni! It just wonderful!
taterzngravy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is story has stood the test of time, and so has the person. Joni was an ordinary teenager who went through some extraordinary circumstances. This story tells of her swimming accident that left her a quadraplegic and of the years that followed of how she and those around her coped with her handicap. It is a moving story that has a moving ending, but if you have followed the life of Joni, the story still hasn't ended and it continues to get more surprising.
susan139 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inspiring, heart warming, heart wrenching, truely unforgettable story of Joni Eareksons fight to recover from a diving accident at the age of 16 that left her paralised. The physical struggle to health is told along side Jonis' life and relationship with God.This really is one book that once read you will never forget.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Joni - An Unforgettable Story - is an inspirational autobiography of Joni Eareckson Tada - Christian artist, speaker, wife, friend, sister - who happens to be a paraplegic who has been in a wheelchair for half a century. But that isn’t the most important thing about Joni. The most important thing is her faith, perseverancen and allowing herself to be used by God to touch people’s lives with her story, from the day of the diving accident to 1975, with updates at the end of the book. Highly recommended.
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Joni - An Unforgettable Story - is an inspirational autobiography of Joni Eareckson Tada - Christian artist, speaker, wife, friend, sister - who happens to be a paraplegic who has been in a wheelchair for half a century. But that isn’t the most important thing about Joni. The most important thing is her faith, perseverancen and allowing herself to be used by God to touch people’s lives with her story, from the day of the diving accident to 1975, with updates at the end of the book. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jpsMS More than 1 year ago
A great book about a womans strength of character and faith in God.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So inspiring... read it over and over again. She and Bethany Hamilton both have an amazing story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have the original version, 1976. I did a school project on Joni in my high school, the book was not assigned. I am still on a quest to see or buy the movie version. I wrote a letter to Joni and was very grateful when she replied, not just with a letter back but some cards of art that she had done. I still have them, its been really hard to send them to people as it still awes me when I look at them as a 'fellow artist' hopeful, as to the control and gift that she has.
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Srry busy dy