Thursday, July 21, 2022

Showcase: Bone By Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing by Geralyn Ritter

Today I'm showcasing memoir by Geralyn Ritter who survived the tragic and deadly Amtrak derailment in May of 2015, 8 passengers died and more than 150 were injured. All information provided by Geralyn's publicist Smith Publicity.

Geralyn is donating 100% of her proceeds to trauma professionals, medicine, and survivors. 


ISBN-13: 978-1950465552
Publisher: The Core Media Group
Release Date: 06-24-2022
Length: 216pp
Buy It: Amazon / B&N 



On May 12, 2015, Amtrak 188 derailed outside of Philadelphia. Eight passengers were killed and more than 150 were injured. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the conductor had “lost situational awareness” and sped through the sharpest curve in the Northeast at more than double the maximum speed limit.

Geralyn Ritter was in the first car of Amtrak 188, and she was thrown from the train with such intensity that her abdominal organs were forced through her diaphragm into her chest. Unable to breathe on her own and suffering massive blood loss, she was not expected to survive. After weeks in the ICU, she endured dozens of surgeries over the next several years, PTSD, chronic pain, depression and opioid dependence. But if you saw her walking down the street today, tussling with her three sons, or ringing the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange as a top executive for her company, you would never guess everything she had been through.

With humor, grace, and no-holds-barred honesty, Geralyn describes the journey back to life in her new book Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing [Core Media Group, June 28, 2022]. Her gains were hard-fought and the scars run deep, even if they are well hidden. Drawing on the latest research on the psychological and physical effects of pain, Geralyn—a health policy expert, Executive Vice President of an S&P 500 healthcare company—describes how healing from trauma is a lifelong process, for both survivors and those who love and care for them. Geralyn dives into difficult topics including depression, polytrauma, and the strain that recovery put on her marriage and relationships. Yet she also shares the insights and resources that lit her way through this dark period, such as the support of her community and family, faith and prayer, honoring the lives lost, allowing herself to grieve, and offering genuine appreciation for the gift of each new day. She also shares what it was like to go back to work, endure the whispers of the doubters, and retake her place in the boardroom.

For readers of In Shock by Rana Awdish, Everything Happens For A Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler, and Together: A Memoir Of A Marriage And A Medical Mishap by Judy Goldman, memoir fans will find Geralyn Ritter’s Bone by Bone tells an incredible story of physical and mental hardship and the journey to recovery.

A support for those suffering from pain and trauma and their caregivers, Bone by Bone sheds light on their symptoms and side-effects, offers hope for recovery, and provides comfort in hearing the story of someone who has been there. Ultimately, this is a story of hope and survival against incredible odds that offers lessons in resilience for all of us.

Bone by Bone shares Geralyn Ritter’s powerful story of resilience to offer support and encouragement for those suffering from pain and trauma, as well as for their caregivers. It deals honestly with the long-lasting impact of sudden trauma and extends hope – from the perspective of someone who has been there. And back.

In a further effort to help others who have experienced traumatic events, Geralyn Ritter will be giving 100% of her proceeds to trauma professionals, medicine, and survivors.

Read an excerpt courtesy of Smith Publicity:

2015 Amtrak Derailment Passenger on Surviving The Crash


By Geralyn Ritter

The following is an excerpt from Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing.

As the train left the platform in Philadelphia, I pulled out my phone. I read a text Jonathan had sent earlier from our youngest son’s baseball game: “Stevie led off the game with a legitimate base hit.”

“Awesome!” I wrote back. Steven was eight, and let’s just say baseball didn’t come naturally for him. I wanted to congratulate him with a big hug and kiss when I got home, but I was sure he would already be fast asleep. I hoped I’d be home in time to say good night to my older sons—Brad who was twelve, and Austin, who was fifteen. Jonathan got to spend more time with the kids than I did since he’d left his job as a corporate lawyer a few years earlier to start his own business from home.

I texted Jonathan my ETA: 10:25 p.m.

“See you then!” he replied. I put my phone in my purse and got up to grab something to read from my briefcase.

It was then that I noticed the train seemed to be moving faster than usual. For a fleeting moment, I was pleased. Maybe we’ll arrive early. Those thirty minutes to my stop always seemed to take forever. The train began to sway, and I grew annoyed because I couldn’t let go of the luggage rack to reach into my briefcase. The rocking got more violent; now I was clutching the rail with both hands to keep from falling. Then the train tilted. I braced myself, both arms straining to hold onto the bar above my head. “What the—?” I yelled. I remember the overwhelming force pulling my body. I remember my confusion, trying to make sense of it. The whole train can’t actually be tipping over. In a flash, I realized it was true—we were crashing. The sound of my own scream is the last thing I remember.

Instead of slowing down at Frankford Junction, the sharpest curve on the Northeast Corridor, the engineer had sped up. It was later revealed that he was going more than twice the speed limit—106 miles per hour—on a curve designed for a maximum of 50 mph. When the engineer realized his mistake, he pulled the emergency brake. It was too late. Within seconds, the train broke free from the rails.

I don’t recall the feeling of the train hitting the ground sideways, twisting, splitting open, and filling with rocks and clouds of dirt. I don’t recall being thrown from the train as the car broke apart.

Other passengers later described the same sensation of the train moving too fast around the curve. Assistant conductor Thomas O’Brien was working in the back of the train and put it simply: “Somewhere between Philly and Trenton, everything was fine—until it wasn’t… There was, like, two seconds of shake and two major impacts…then we hit, and I went flying.”[i] A man named Daniel Armyn, who was also seated in car one, said he grabbed his laptop and paperwork as they slid to the right. Then the car filled with angry, metallic screeching, and everything was shaking uncontrollably. He knew the train was going off the rails.[ii]

At first, Michael Walsh had the uncomfortable feeling of being on a roller coaster—the force of speeding around the curve pressing him toward the windows. The train was turning so far out, he knew it was going to fall. As we hit the ground, Michael saw the front of the car bucking up and down, like it was tumbling down a staircase. Within seconds, he made the decision to get away from the window—he wanted to be in the aisle. He tried to rise and, as the car bucked upward, he was pushed to standing. His quick instinct may have saved his life. The fact that I was standing in the aisle with my hands above my head during the crash might have been what saved me as well. As the trailing cars plowed into car one, Michael went flying forward. In the back of the train, first, objects flew from the left side of the train to the right—laptops, purses, suitcases, shoes—followed by people being tossed through the air. Janna D’Ambrisi was thrown against the woman who was seated next to her, by the window. As the train tipped further, other passengers from across the aisle fell on top of them, one landing in the luggage rack above their heads.[iii]

Eli Kulp, a thirty-seven-year-old chef whose wife and toddler were waiting at home, was thrown headfirst into the luggage rack. Buried beneath suitcases when the train came to a halt, he realized he couldn’t move. His single injury was simple, cruel, and devastating. He’d broken his C7 vertebra and was instantly paralyzed from the chest down.[iv]

In the moments after the crash, passengers in car three who were able climbed out the emergency windows, which were now above them. One woman who made her way out the window was Seyward Darby, an editor at Foreign Policy magazine who was getting married the following month. She sustained minor injuries, while the twenty-year-old seated beside her, a naval midshipman in his dress whites named Justin Zemser, was thrown from the train and killed.[v]

One of the first responders, James Morace, a sergeant from the highway patrol, spoke to reporters about the way his group was briefed before arriving at the scene. They were told that if they’d been in combat before, what they would see might be familiar. Otherwise, they were instructed to steady themselves.[vi] The most prevalent word used to describe the accident, by first responders and passengers alike, was “chaos.”

Back in car seven, assistant conductor O’Brien pulled himself out from under the seat back he had crashed into and later described the scene to investigators:


As soon as I got up, I’m looking around and there’s immediately more blood than made sense for me to be able to see so fast. I just thought, ‘How are we all bleeding so much already?’ And I’m looking at the walls and I’m looking at the floor and there’s just blood and there’s stuff everywhere. The seats are all either disconnected and off or rotated out of place. And now people are like yelling about being trapped because they’re pinned with these seats. People are screaming that they think that the train’s on fire…


When Michael Walsh came to, he knew he was lying on his back in a confined place—an overhead bin? The lavatory? A doorway? It seemed strangely quiet. A uniformed police officer found him.

“Are you in pain?” the officer asked.

“No,” Michael replied.

The officer’s expression became more intense, and he asked about Michael’s shoulder, chest, and leg. “No,” Michael repeated.

Placing a hand on Michael’s shoulder, the officer tried to comfort him: “You’re going to be okay.”

Michael’s heart sank. He had heard this line before—as a retired New York City policeman, he’d uttered it himself many times as he’d watched injured victims slip away. He knew what it meant. The only response he could think of was, “I don’t want to die.” That’s when he blacked out. The policeman put a tourniquet on his leg before loading him and an injured woman into the back of a police wagon and rushing them to Temple Hospital.

Blair Berman, a woman in her mid-twenties, had moved up to the first car from farther back in the train. During the accident, she was knocked unconscious. Blair woke up in the woods with other passengers collapsed on top of her legs. She stood up, barefoot, and leaned against a tree, screaming in terror. Blair saw a man talking on a cell phone and asked to use it. “No,” he refused. It turned out he was Brandon Bostian, the train engineer. She badgered him until he gave in, and she called her father.[vii]

Brandon Bostian walked away from the accident with a concussion and says he doesn’t remember why he pushed the throttle to speed up, when he should have been slowing down. The National Transportation Safety Board called it a “loss of situational awareness.”[viii] I think most people would call it distracted driving (of a 1,000-ton passenger train). It seems he got confused and thought he was on the straightaway after the curve. He may have been distracted by radio reports that were coming in of an emergency with another train. But the bottom line is that the deadliest crash in the Northeast Corridor since 1987 was a matter of human error.[ix] Worst of all, it was completely preventable.

A technology called Positive Train Control (PTC) has been around for decades. It automatically slows a train that is moving too fast. Amtrak had installed PTC along most of the Northeast Corridor, but not at Frankford Junction, the sharpest curve on the route.[x]

In photographs of the aftermath, viewing the train from a great distance above, it is striking how haphazardly the cars are scattered. Car five, near the end, is perpendicular to the track. Cars two, three, and four are turned on their sides in an arc. The locomotive is many yards away, spun around, but still upright. Car one, where I was sitting, is a pile of crumpled metal surrounded by scattered debris and no longer resembles a section of train. I don’t know where I was found or who rescued me. From what I can tell, I was among the first to be saved.[xi]



About the author:
A recognized expert in healthcare policy, Geralyn Ritter is executive vice president at Organon & Co., a global healthcare company dedicated to the health of women, with nearly 10,000 employees and a presence in over 140 countries. She was formerly senior vice-president at Merck & Co., Inc., one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. She has spearheaded global government affairs and policy, led initiatives on corporate governance and corporate responsibility, created and launched a widely acclaimed half-billion-dollar philanthropic initiative to end preventable maternal deaths around the globe, and served as President of the Merck Foundation. In 2020, on behalf of Merck, Geralyn accepted the Disability


  1. What an amazing story this would be to read. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

    1. They asked for a review but I just wasn't in a good enough frame of mind to so through such a tragic read right now

  2. Oh wow! This sounds like a very powerful read.