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Chesterfield woman graduates after surviving volcanic eruption

Published: May. 14, 2022 at 12:04 AM EDT|Updated: May. 14, 2022 at 9:27 AM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - As thousands of students around the Commonwealth graduate this weekend from colleges and universities, one Chesterfield woman is finally walking across the stage after walking away from a volcanic eruption.

Back in December of 2019 a volcano on New Zealand’s White Island erupted, killing 22 people and injuring dozens.

Two of those people injured were Lauren and Matt Urey who had just gotten married in October of 2019.

Lauren who was back in school earning a degree in Laboratory Science had just finished off her first semester at Old Dominion University.

In December the couple took their honeymoon and traveled to different countries including New Zealand, where they took an excursion to White Island.

“We definitely were not looking for an adventure,” Matt said.

But unfortunately, an adventure found them after the volcano erupted on the island.

“We heard somebody say look and we turned around behind us and you could see just a small bloom of black smoke coming out of the volcano,” Matt said.

Hot ash and rock descended on the island as the two were trying to shelter each other under a rock, thinking they were going to die.

“You felt like you were going to get buried alive I mean that’s what I thought for sure we were going to get buried,” Lauren said.

Matt said after what felt like an eternity, the dust settled as the two tried their best to make it back to a boat off the island.

They were later taken to area hospitals where they were treated for severe burns before being able to fly back to the United States.

“I got to VCU at the end of January at the burns hospital and matt arrived February 1,” Lauren said.

On a road of recovery filled with early surgeries and physical therapy sessions being canceled due to the pandemic, Lauren had one goal she knew she could accomplish to return to a normal life.

“I really wanted to go back to school, I wanted to prove to myself and prove to everyone that just because something horrible happened to me or to like anyone you could still do everything you could before,” Lauren said.

Over the last two years, Lauren has hit the books and worked hard to finally walk across the stage and receive her diploma last weekend.

She says she is ready to put what happened on the island behind her and encourages everyone to keep moving forward.

“Take a few classes at a time if that’s what you need I mean, slow and steady if that’s what you need to do but just don’t give up on your dreams. It’s so important because it’s all worth it, in the end, it really is,” Lauren said.

Lauren is now working as a clinical laboratory scientist with Bon Secours Richmond Health System.

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