How Danny Bader Turned a Fatal Tragedy into a Life Lesson

After 10,000 volts of electricity ran through his body during a roofing job more than 20 years ago, Bader is alive and well.

SURVIVE AND THRIVE: Danny Bader at home in Kennett Square//Photo by Tessa Marie Images.

Danny Bader found himself sprawled on his back on the front lawn of a house that wasn’t his. He had just finished a roofing job with two buddies and was helping one retract the ladder. It hit the power lines above the house, sending more than 10,000 volts of electricity into the bodies of Bader and his friend. 

A near-sonic boom brought the third man running toward them. Bader’s body had blown back several feet. Foam ringed his mouth and he wasn’t breathing. His friend performed CPR to no avail, then ran across the street to call 911. 

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On July 28, 1992, 28-year-old Danny Bader was, for all intents and purposes, dead. Now 52, he’s had decades to reflect on what happened that afternoon and in the following weeks: “Darkness, warmth, peace and all-encompassing love.” 

That’s how Bader describes the place where his soul journeyed—not quite heaven but definitely not Earth. He hasn’t stamped a clear label on it, and he doesn’t feel the need to. 

Bader is Catholic, and his faith has been one of his guiding principles. So, yes, he believes in heaven—but he doesn’t presume to have experienced the full extent of what heaven is. There’s much more to it. Of that, he’s sure. 

Bader was rushed to the hospital, then to a trauma center. 

“Why did I come back and my buddy didn’t? You’d think that a father of young kids would be given another chance. I mean … Why me?” 

He spent 10 days in the hospital and a few weeks on crutches. Aside from the almost-invisible scars on his hands, he fully recovered physically. 

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Mentally, it took much longer. The other man holding the ladder—a husband and father of three young kids—died instantly. Bader grappled with guilt, sadness and anger. He drank copiously, but that’s the lowest he’d allow himself to sink. 

Eleven months after the accident, Bader married his longtime girlfriend. A year after that, they had their first child. Two more kids followed.

After landing a job at MBNA in Wilmington, Bader talked his way into a program that trained him to teach executive skills to his colleagues. From there, he became a self-help coach, spending eight years offering workshops to Fortune 500 companies in the United States and Canada. 

In 2012, Bader published the mostly autobiographical Back From Heaven’s Front Porch, which reached No. 1 in Amazon’s self-help category. A year later, he started his company, jckrbbt. “The jackrabbit has amazing powers of perception,” Bader says. “Having vision is critical to leading a happy, successful life.”

Creating a personal vision is one of the principles that Bader teaches in corporate workshops around the world. Stillness is another. “My mom used to say that she couldn’t hear herself think with eight kids running around the house, and that’s even more true now because of the technology that surrounds us,” he says. “When are we still? And quiet? And listening? If you don’t listen, you can’t hear yourself—or anyone else.”

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Those and other principles are echoed in Bader’s second book, a parable titled Abraham’s Diner. Released as an e-book late last year and scheduled for a print run in early 2016, it’s his second book with motivational publisher Sound Wisdom. He’s also working on a memoir and a screenplay, while traveling the country running six to eight workshops per week.

More than 20 years after the accident, Bader’s eyes still water when he talks about it. “Why did I come back and my buddy didn’t?” he asks. “You’d think that a father of young kids would be given another chance. I mean … Why me?” 

Whether or not he communicated directly with God or an emissary, Bader understands that there was a fair amount of science involved in his survival. He was holding the ladder loosely while his friend had a firm grip on it, so the electricity coursed through their bodies differently. Bader knows all of the medical aspects of the accident, as does Lisa, his wife, who’s an operating room nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Bader doesn’t like dwelling on any of it. It took him 20 years to write a book about it. The point isn’t whether or not he died or with whom he communicated. What’s important are the answers Bader found within himself. He’d thought about teaching and coaching for many years, but he didn’t pursue it until he’d provided for his family. Even without the accident, he may have become the person he is today. All of the gears were in place—he simply hadn’t pressed the accelerator.

Bader travels regularly and retreats into nature—sans phone and computer—to think and dream. There’s never a question that he’ll return to his wife and kids. They are his own version of heaven, right here on Earth.

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