I have told my story about the day I was injured countless times. I shared it with new friends, curious strangers and many others. I have given speeches on numerous occasions. I spoke at High Schools, Middle School and even Elementary schools. I was the featured speaker at a Regional Conference, Civic groups, a church and even was the default speaker presiding over a funeral. No doubt, that was the greatest honor and privilege as a speaker to date!.
However, when you are blessed and believe me I am very blessed, to live as many years and experience so much life there’s more than just the story of my injury.
But I will begin there, even though I believe the years I spent walking unknowingly prepared me for what was yet to come. I’m certain anyone reading this who didn’t know me, will find this hard to believe. If you could believe it at all! I never gave much consideration to fate. But I look at it like divine intervention. You think or believe you’re going in one direction. The direction of your choice. It’s the plans you make as you should, especially being on the cusp of adulthood. Unfortunately, I would never realize those dreams as they were snuffed out in a matter of seconds.
So this is my story. One of many, but the story how one precipitous choice changed the course of my dreams forever.
It was Sunday, December 2nd 1979. I still remember every detail of that day and everything that was to follow. I was at the table eating a bowl of cereal. My friend’s knocked on the door. It was football Sunday! I was dressed had my jersey on and ready to go play in a pickup football game. I remember my conversation with my mom. She said to me, I should be going to church. Being 17 and of course knowing everything, I brushed it aside. I would be lying if I didn’t admit how badly I wish I was sitting in that pew that day! But that was not the case. I made a choice, a decision that could not be undone.
Everyday people take calculated risks the minute you walk out that door. There was nothing unusual about that day. I’ve played in pickup football games since I was a little kid. Obviously anything to do with contact sports, risk of injury is much greater. But I never dreamed that in this particular game, life would become so dramatically different from the way I knew it.
As I headed out the door, I remember my mom saying be careful. My friends replied, don’t worry Mrs. LoStracco we got his back.
As I laid on a cold ground with my body broken, fear was my only emotion. I’d like to say I was thinking that life the way I knew it was going to be different. But those thoughts were not my immediate challenge. They were a little bit down the road. Not a far trip down the road mind you. But certainly not in that moment.
It was December 2nd, 1979. However, let me digress. It’s important because it sets the stage for everything that followed.
I was 17 and a half. Passionate vibrant and full of life. I love sports! I was not a naturally gifted kid. What I lacked in physical tools I developed through heart. I was seven years old when I entered Saint James church in a small town called Bristol borough.