From left to right, the Carsons' wedding party: Cerise Rustin Tounsel, Cerise Rustin, Candy Rustin Carson, Dr. Ben Carson , Sonya Carson, Curtis Carson Ask Ben Carson how he and Candy Rustin got engaged, and you get a story that sounds like it might end on the operating table, not at the altar. The tale begins in the 1970s, when he was a senior at Yale and she was a sophomore there. "We were both from Detroit, but we had to go to Connecticut to meet each other at Yale," said Carson, 59, of the Johns Hopkins Childrens Center. "We were both from families without much in the way of finances and we wanted to come home for Thanksgiving. The school would pay your way home if we would do some recruiting for them. So we went on their dime, we got a chance to go out to restaurants and do things we normally would not ever have the chance to do. We began to start having some feelings for each other." When their weeklong visit to Detroit was over, they headed back to Yale by rental car. "We had been in Ann Arbor the night before. Probably stayed up later than we should have. We were going to drive all night to get back the next day. She was going to help keep me awake. That didnt work very well." Candy was soon sound asleep. And by the time they hit Youngstown, Ohio, on Interstate 80, Carson was nodding off. "I fell asleep at 90 miles an hour and was awakened by the vibrations of the car as it was going off the road, heading off into a ravine," he said. "I grabbed the wheel, and it just started spinning. They say your life flashes before your eyes, and it's true. I saw all these scenes from my life and I thought, 'I'm gonna die.' And it just stopped on the shoulder, just in time before an 18-wheeler barreled by. And Candy awakened and said, 'What happened?' and I said, 'Nothing.'" Of course, she knew better than to believe him. "I explained what happened, and we said, 'You know what? God spared our lives because he wants us to do something.' And that was the first time we kissed each other, and we started going together at that moment. We were basically inseparable from that point on in school, and after I left to go to medical school at the University of Michigan, we wrote letters to each other every day. And we would call whenever we could. One evening we had a six-hour phone call. We never got billed for it. We were dreading it." More divine intervention? "Probably they looked at it and said, 'This is a mistake.'" Candy graduated from Yale in June 1975, and they were married that July. So when did the question actually get popped? "It wasn't sort of a, 'Will you marry me?' It was more of a, 'When do you think we should get married?'" Without saying as much, right there in the car on Interstate 80, they both concluded they'd spend their lives together. "We knew," Carson said. "It was never in doubt after that day."
Johns Hopkins Children's Center