Monday, November 22, 2010

I have been MIA here because for the past 2+ weeks I have been working day & night, literally...even weekends, because I am leaving for Sudan TOMORROW!! The timing of the trip couldn't really be worse as the last quarter of every year is always my busiest, most demanding time and then there is Thanksgiving that my family was planning on spending w/ my parents on the Oregon Coast...I feel so lucky to have all their support in making my trip a reality. I will write a little more on that later but I have been telling myself for wks that before I left I would share with you pictures I took of one amazing young man. But there is so much more than just pictures to share so buckle up for a long post.

In September, I was with my boys at the University St. Starbucks waiting in line. Oscar, my youngest, pointed out the super strong leg belonging to the guy in front of us. He mentioned it a second time and as I was leaning down to ask him if he wanted to ask the guy about his leg the guy turned around and opened himself up to questions. We talked briefly about how he lost his leg, a drunk driver hit him while he was standing next to his car. We talked a little about the driver who had 2 DUIs on his record and only received 2.5 yrs in jail. I was so impressed with this young man, I assumed the accident had happened years ago but I was shocked when he told me it had happened within the last year. And then I asked how long his recovery had jaw must have dropped to the floor when he said he had been bedridden until just 3 month ago. I just couldn't believe it because he carried himself with such strength. To have gone through what he had so recently and to be sharing his story so openly was almost incomprehensible to me and I just thought that he must be one amazing young man. I am not shy so I asked a few more questions and found out he had graduated from UW just last year w/ an aerospace (or maybe aeronautical) engineering degree but was unemployed given the current state of the economy jobs were scarce. I learned all this while in line and then we said our goodbyes and I got my coffee and snacks for the boys. We went outside & I talked more w/ my boys about what an incredible person we had just met. He inspired me and I just couldn't let it pass so I went in and got a coffee sleeve, jotted down my contact information and decided I was going to give it to him because I wanted to photograph him & maybe others who inspire me. But as we went to walk across the street he was with friends and I didn't want to impose so we walked on by. Then a half block later I just had to take one more look back and I saw he was walking our way all alone. So as he caught up I told him I wasn't a stalker and we exchanged names & I told him if he was ever up for it I would love to photograph him and learn more about him. He said there were some news articles that I could find online and I said I would look them up but I wanted to do more than just a news piece on him but that I completely understood if he never contacted me as I appeared to be a bit of a crazy lady (good thing my kids looked normal).
Anyway, I shared my story of meeting him with quite a few friends. I felt so lucky to have crossed paths with him that even if we never met again he made my day that day and inspired me for sure. I went home and read the news articles and learned that the accident was even worse than he had shared. His dad was also severely injured and the rehabilitation for both was extreme and the impact the accident had on his family was unimaginable. Jason had mentioned that he was unemployed, I learned from the article that he had just been interviewing before the accident and received a job offer but had been in a coma when the offer came.
I really expected he wouldn't think twice about contacting me so when I saw an email in my inbox from Jason Wong my heart skipped a beat! He was up for meeting again and letting me take his pictures. Then the weather turned bad and my workload was crazy. I just wasn't sure it was going to happen before the new year. And then there was a window in the forecast for a few days of sun so I emailed him to see if he was free, he was and he showed up on my doorstep a few days later.
And I just can't say enough about how lucky I feel that he was open enough to take me up on my offer. He arrived without any expectations and was up for just walking the neighborhood with me while I photographed and we talked. One of the first things I learned as we walked away from my house was that he had been interviewing in DC, LA & locally w/ Boeing, had received multiple job offers and was starting a new job the following week with Boeing. So exciting! He shared with me how you learn to walk with a prosthetic leg and after 2 hours on it how it takes so much strength and concentration to focus on walking. But he has only been walking on his new leg for 4 months...I'm sure most people would not be near as proficient as he is and he did confirm that his doctors & therapists have all been amazed with his progress, he is so far ahead of the curve. But I can tell that is just who Jason as always been. A very hard worker that does not let the words difficult or can't slow him down. When I asked Jason if he would crouch down for a few pictures he said sure and as he was about to get up he told me that was the first time he had tried that position with his leg. He made it look so easy and yet it was a first that I was lucky enough to get to see. There are other positives that have resulted from his tragic accident and I am sure his life could have taken a very different path but Jason continually makes a choice to put his head down and take things on as they come instead of turn away and play the victim card. I am sure friends and family will be reading this and I am sure I am barely scratching the surface of the Jason they know and love. I look forward to learning more about this amazing young man in the future. Meeting Jason Wong is on the top of my highlight list for 2010. Jason, thank you for being so amazing and sharing yourself with me. I hope you see these pictures and you can see what an amazing person you are because you embody something very special and I consider myself so lucky to have crossed paths with you that day in September!!
One note, this is how incredible he is at pictures, these are all straight out of the camera as I just haven't had time to work any. I don't think they need much work!
Happy Thanksgiving!


CP said...

What an incredible young man! And good for you to follow your instincts and give him your information.

Colette said...

Jason, you are very inspiring!
Whenever the aerospace industry brings you to London On,I would like to meet you! Wish you a bright future!