While I’ve been dealing with my wheelchair problems the past couple of months, I’ve learned that the majority of wheelchair manufacturers don’t test their power wheelchairs before they’re distributed to the public. This makes no damn sense! So basically I’m playing the role of wheelchair tester in the city of Chicago and I think I need to be paid for being a tester. Now it makes sense why my wheelchair has broken down on me only after year because no manufacturer took the time to make sure everything is in working order.
Today is 9/11 and for the past twelve years this has been both a sad day and a joyous day for me. It’s been sad because of the tragedy that took place on this date and the many people who lost their lives. But, however, I’ve always seen this day as a joyous one because this was the day I got my manual wheelchair for the very first time. It’s one of those days I still remember and won’t forget.
On that day in 2001, I was a student at Senn High School on the north side of Chicago and I didn’t want to be there in class at all. I was taking a science class that morning and one of the teachers who taught a class next door would always come in after class to talk and joke around with some of the students. Well on that day he comes into class and starts talking about a plane went into the towers (World Trade Center) and blew it up. The remaining students including myself just dismissed it because he was always joking around and we thought he was plain crazy and I left to head to my next class which was on the other side of the building.
When I got to my next class, I found out that what that teacher was talking about wasn’t a joke and I witness it live on television what was transpiring and everything just stopped. As I’m sitting there in the class with the other students watching this horrific attack, I realized that I made an appointment at Children’s Memorial Hospital to pick up my wheelchair and with all the stuff that was going on I wasn’t gonna be able to leave the school because it was on lockdown.
As I sit in the classroom, I’m worried because I know I can’t leave the school but yet my mom is coming back to get me and has a ride to take me to the hospital. Well the security at Senn found me in class and escorted me towards one of the many exits the school has and my mom is waiting for me and we headed to the hospital. I think I was the only CPS (Chicago Public Schools) student in the city that had permission to leave school while it was on lockdown to get to my appointment.
I arrive at Children’s and the mood is very somber at that time because it still a very chaotic time across the country and you didn’t know what might happen next but the staff at the hospital had to keep working like it nothing was happening. I met up with a guy named Rick who worked at the hospital and who I had gotten know months earlier before getting my chair (He always said I look like a young Muhammad Ali). I was so excited that I was getting a wheelchair that would belong to me and no one else. I was using a borrowed wheelchair at the time that wasn’t comfortable for me at all because I was a tall guy and so getting this wheelchair that would be made to my body’s specifications was a joy for me.
Twelve years later and I still have that manual wheelchair that has definitely seen better days but it still works for me and I’m able to do a lot of things at home thanks to that wheelchair. 9/11 will always have a place in my heart not only because of the lives that were lost on that day but it will have a place in my heart because it gave me a wheelchair I could call my own.