Gloria Estefan Says Her Tragic Tour Bus Accident 'Gave Meaning to My Fame'

Estefan revisits the fateful day when her tour bus was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler truck.

March 20, 1990 is a date Gloria Estefan will never forget. It’s a date that forever changed her life, her career, and, more importantly, her approach to both. In the latest episode of Red Table Talk: The Estefans, the singer reflected on the fateful day when her tour bus was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler truck during a snowstorm, leaving her with injuries that doctors said would leave her unable to walk or dance again. 

With the signature candor that’s characterized recent episodes on divorce, coming out and mental health, Gloria joined her niece Lili and her daughter Emily -- as well as her husband Emilio and her sister Becky -- at the bold red table for a tear-filled episode about the power of prayer and resilience.

“I think I broke my back.”

That’s the first thing Gloria remembers telling Emilio when he found her on the floor of their tour bus following the collision. Despite her husband being in denial of such a fate, that was exactly what had happened: her recovery would take four hours of surgery and months of recovery.

The crash put on hold what seemed like a string of unstoppable career highs. The couple had just met with then-president George H.W. Bush at the White House and were in the middle of a U.S. tour to support her best-selling album to date, Cuts Both Ways.

The crash, as Gloria shared in the episode, taught her a lot of things. But specifically, it taught her the power of prayer.

“It wasn’t until I was the recipient of everyone’s collective thoughts that I clearly understood,” she said. “I would visually see the prayers entering my body and going to my spine. I would imagine nerves reconnecting and doing all these things. Literally I was sucking in that energy that I was feeling and it was keeping me buoyed and up.”

As Gloria later put it, the accident “gave meaning to my fame,” a way of knowing just how many people felt connected to her and her music.

In addition to emotional memories from that dark time, the episode featured both funny bits, like Lili asking about post-recovery sex, and tender admissions, like Emily talking about how she feels that day forever changed her parents’ approach to life.

“I know that I wasn’t there for the accident,” she shared. “But every day of my life I can feel a repercussion turned into a lesson through you guys as a result of that accident: Enjoy every moment! You don’t know what you’ll have tomorrow! It’s not worth being stressed! It doesn’t matter if you’re a millionaire, it doesn’t matter if you have one dollar, from one second to the next, your life can change.”

That was the emotion that characterized the song Emilio and Gloria wrote following the long road to Gloria’s recovery, “Coming Out of the Dark,” which went on to become Gloria’s last-ever No. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

“That song came through not from me. What it was was a big thank you,” Gloria said.

Close to 30 years since she first performed it at the AMAs during her big comeback live appearance, the singer was joined by Emily on the piano for a special take on the swooping ballad -- a perfect way to cap off the episode.

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