Marcelo Cruz is one lucky guy. Cruz, a wheelchair user, was going across the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed on Wednesday. He was on his way to a wheelchair racing class when he felt the bridge buckle. "The bridge started shaking like an earthquake. I saw the bridge going up and down a little bit," he told reporters. Then he saw people hanging on the side of the bridge, and then he realized the bridge’s incline was now so steep he couldn’t brake his van. So he drove his van into a concrete barrier and finally, it came to a stop. Because of the steep incline of the bridge, Cruz couldn’t get out of the van by himself, but was able to get help from two other men, and then made it to safety.
Lucky, lucky guy.
I’m drawn to stories like Cruz’ for a few reasons. First, of course, what happened in Minneapolis is horrific, so much like 9/11, and can happen anywhere. True, Hurricane Katrina was more of a disaster, but I live in Pennsylvania. Hurricanes happen elsewhere. But we have a lot of bridges here. And now, like many others, I’m going to speed up when I’m crossing one. Second, I’m drawn to Cruz’ story because it’s such a typical human story. We like to identify with survivors -- they're “every man.” The stories of those who die are heart-breaking and compelling and make us cry, but the stories of those who live … they’re about all of us because everyone alive is a survivor of something. And third, hey, Cruz is a guy with a disability, a wheelchair-user with an SCI.
Let’s look at that last point a bit more.
There’s a core of folks in our community, and I’m one of them, who think deeply about how the general public’s attitudes toward disability is reflected by the media. We work with media outlets to get them to see our lives the way we do – which, yes, varies from person to person … which, actually, is kinda the point. Yesterday saw a flurry of e-mails among media activists examining how Cruz’ story has been handled by the press. Yes, some reporters said he’s confined, some said he’s bound. Some said he’s a quad, some said he’s a para, some just said he’s paralyzed. Let’s put all that language stuff to the side for a minute and look at some other stuff they said.
Newspapers around the nation reported that a guy, just a guy, who happens to use a wheelchair, through quick thinking and decisive action survived a horrific disaster that is reminiscent of 9/11. No one’s surprised he had his own van, no one questioned whether he should have been driving by himself. And his story is portrayed as one of many beautiful survival stories, like the ones about the young woman who helped save school children, and so on and so forth.
Here’s the bigger story Cruz is part of: People, just people, were put under enormous pressure to survive. And people, as people tend to do, rose to the challenge. At least one of those people, and this is no surprise, was a guy with a disability who happens to use a wheelchair.
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